The Curse of Behaviourism
Behaviourism is that 1940s ideology that constructed the human being as machine, as the sum of inputs and outputs. Nothing could be further from reality. Behaviourism constructs a false world that views humans as objects and naively thinks that motivation and goals setting are about positive and negative reinforcement. None of this is true yet safety flocks to this ideology because it offers a simplistic construct to understand the world. The outcome is frustration and bewilderment at human decision making because the unbeknown to the behaviourist, the construct doesn’t fit. When all the punishment has been metered out and still nothing changes, the behaviourist has only one more option, more punishment.
The reality is that human beings are not about inputs and outputs. The language of ‘resonance’ and ‘reverberation’ is much better language to use when thinking about social enactment.
The evidence shows that humans resonate with each other in even such simple things as being affected by another’s grief, crying, pain and distress. Receptors in out brain and chemicals in our heart and gut mirror those of the person we are affected by. Humans are ecological beings that are affected by the environment, environment design, music, sound, weather and social settings. The evidence for the interconnection of embodied humans to the world is overwhelming. Try reading some of these for example:
Damasio – The Feeling of What happens; Descartes Error
Varela – The Embodied Mind
Claxton – Intelligence in the Flesh, The Wayward Mind
Ginot – The Neuropsychology of the Unconscious
Robinson – Out of Our Minds
Norrtranders – The User Illusion
Sloman – The Knowledge illusion
Wilson – Strangers to Ourselves
Ramachandran – A Brief Tour of the Unconscious
Vittorio Gallese (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vittorio_Gallese ) discovered that we all have ‘mirror neurons’ and that our internal organs are set off by neurochemical reactions that generate sympathy, empathy and identification. This was most demonstrated recently with the picture of young Alan Kurdi dead on a Turkish beach (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Death_of_Alan_Kurdi ). The outpouring of empathy across the world demonstrates how ‘social resonance’ works.
Our bodies are in a continual state of resonance and reverberation with all that is around us and these are not ‘inputs’ and ‘outputs’. The computer metaphor applied to human being is the delusion of the behaviourist curse. Sorry to disappoint Safety but humans are organic not mechanic.
All effective communication depends on ‘body coupling’, that is, the ability to read and connect with others. We unconsciously learn to ‘read’ others emotions, body language and expressions and our body resonates with our perceptions, without brain direction. Life is much more like a social dance than a computer.
Unfortunately, Safety remains infused with the behaviourist assumptions of Heinrich and BBS. Safety is still stuck in the 1940s! Just look at the content of safety qualifications and curriculum and tell me it’s not true.
Safety loves the mechanist construct because it can be counted but not because it counts. Safety loves lower-order goals because they can be measured not because they have meaning. A focus on lower-order measurable goals retards Safety from higher-order goals of: trust, respect, connection, relationship, trust, care, helping and learning. This is the curse of behaviourism.