Embodied Enactivity in Safety


Day 3 of our SPoR workshops in Canberra saw a shift to a focus on embodiment and the way that the safety industry has a dis-embodied view of persons. This focus has a bias on brain-centrism and the idea that the brain is a computer that directs decisions. This is NOT the case.

When we understand the somatic and kinaesthetic nature of human embodied action we know that the whole body participates in decision making and that the brain is NOT a computer. The use of this metaphor is as silly as thinking of the human eye as a camera. Neither are true and both metaphors are myth.

Human perception has no connection at all or, any relevance to understanding human perception as a camera.

Guy Claxton (Intelligence in the Flesh) put the nature of human embodiment well when he states that: ‘the brain doesn’t issue commands, it hosts conversations’.

All of the evidence shows that human internal systems operate independently of the brain and only inform the brain after a decision is made.

We also know that humans resonant with each other through mirror neurons and other psycho-social factors that all affect us. In SPoR we call this Socialitie. We teach this in many ways mostly introducing people the three ways of knowing and deciding through the head, heart and gut knowing. We call this 1 Brain 3 Minds (1B3M) symbolised thus:


Humans clearly have three centres of being and each makes decisions linked to the endocrine, immune and nervous systems. Each one of these embodied systems makes decisions and different speeds so we know that rational thinking is very slow, emotions and heuristical thinking is reactive and super-fast and automatic. We also know that gut thinking is what scientists call ‘the second brain’: https://www.researchgate.net/publication/360160484_Second_Brain_Gut-Brain_Connection). Even the vagus nerve itself makes decisions in dependent of the brain! (https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/15505970/).

All of this just scratches the surface in understanding human persons and why we do what we do.

Here we see one of the groups undertaking a practical activity with a puzzle that demonstrates the realities of muscle memory and finger memory (https://www.academia.edu/91480519/Muscle_memory ).

Many of the activities we undertook demonstrate conclusively the embodied nature of human decision making.


All of this has huge implications for the way Safety understands human judgment and decisions making, inductions, learning and why people do what they do. Most of the assumptions of engineering-behaviourism (the popular philosophy of safety) are simply wrong.

This is why many of the systems of safety and approaches to training don’t work.

This is because Behaviourism remains unquestioned in the safety industry which is yet to contemplate anything outside of itself regarding human personhood. Indeed, even when Safety talks about ethics it remains silent (https://safetyrisk.net/?s=Silences) about so many critical things essential to an understanding of human ‘being’, ethics and culture. Ignorance on these three in the industry is simply astounding.

All of this is ‘head in the sand safety’ that regards any criticism of safety as non-compliant and anti-safety.

Yesterday, we started with Dr Ashhurst looking at the 5 forms of implicit knowing including the important work of Michael Polanyi (The Tacit Dimension https://monoskop.org/images/1/11/Polanyi_Michael_The_Tacit_Dimension.pdf). We then moved on to conceptually mapping the nature of personhood and the day ended out with a chat with Graham Long (https://cms.australianoftheyear.org.au/recipients/reverend-graham-long) on the philosophy of Martin Buber (https://www.maximusveritas.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/04/iandthou.pdf) and how this was applied practically in all his work at the Wayside Chapel in Kings Cross (https://www.smh.com.au/national/nsw/wayside-chapels-graham-long-fell-from-grace-but-rose-again-20150909-gjiv5f.html ). The chat with Graham served as a case study of how an embodied philosophy and vision can be enacted through enabling methods with enormous success.

This transfer of methodology to method, is how SPoR works. Ideas and slogans, intentions and propositions on their own without e-motion, change nothing.

Then some of us went out for dinner together where the conversation eschewed.

So, on today 4, we close out our learning workshops starting with a guess presenter in Embodied Somatics where we will learn about psychosocial myths, risks and how a somatic understanding of wellness can build resilience through Socialitie.

All of this is, as per all methods in SPoR: practical, doable, positive and constructive in helping people in safety tackle the challenges of risk.


Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.