The Brain as Computer Myth

imageIt is so attractive to develop simple binary models of human ‘being’ that are mythical/symbolic but NOT real. Eg. Human thinking is not fast and/or slow (

The implications of myth implies that people act on it. We witness this in any form of religious observance. Eg. Acting on the myth of zero most often brutalises persons. Expecting perfection of fallible persons will always lead to brutalism. This is why zero is unethical and unprofessional.

Under the Kahneman myth we might expect people to be incompetent or competent but not developing competence. We might expect people to have a fully developed heuristic not a forming heuristic. The reality is we know that all learning takes time. Even then, it depends on how one defines competence and to what it is compared. I can play the guitar but compared to Tommy Emmanuel I am incompetent. I can drive a car but compared to Craig Lownes I am incompetent. All learning is subjective and relative.

The implications of understanding learning as developmental changes expectation, patience and post-event exploration. Understanding that Imagination, Discovery and Ownership are essential for learning also means we don’t assume that because training has been undertaken that learning has occurred. Training is NOT learning ( ).

Unfortunately, in Safety, you won’t find a discussion of learning theory anywhere, even from the S2 crowd who love to talk about it.

The implications of this is important for understanding memory and this too is warped by the myth of brain-centrism and the idea that the brain is like a computer.

The brain and body are nothing like a computer or machine.

Such metaphors are pure myth. Unfortunately, acting on this myth activates expectations about memory that are completely false and misleading.

What most don’t realise is that science still has little idea of consciousness, unconsciousness and memory. It too is plagued by linear assumptions about knowing and, ‘vertical’ and ‘horizontal’ assumptions about memory. Despite extraordinary research the debate about the body-mind problem ( continues.

There is no hierarchy or linearity in memory.

For example, We still know so little about dementia (

One thing science does agree on is, that the mind is NOT the brain and that the brain is NOT the locus for the Mind (

Whilst the metaphor of computer is attractive and simple, just as the metaphor of camera for eye is attractive, both conceptual metaphors are myths.

We now know that the body remembers and this is most pronounced in the case of trauma (eg. Van der Kolk. The Body Keeps the Score We also know that unless resilience is embodied and social it also has little affect.

We know a great deal about mirror neurons (  ) and ‘body memory’.

We also know just how much the emotions and feelings direct knowing and decision making.

We know that the brain is more of a coordination organ than a directing organ .

We know that the brain, body, Mind, nervous system, endocrine system, blood system, heart, gut (now called the second brain –  ) and immune systems are all intercorporeal and interaffected (

That is, memory is embodied. Eg. Recent research shows how the use of the hands is essential for memory ( People don’t just ‘talk’ with their hands but gesture is an essential part of memory.

We also know that memory changes according to context, location and triggers of memory. We can alter memory simply by a change in body posture, we can ‘heal’ traumatic memories through aesthetics.

The evidence that demonstrates that the brain is NOT like a computer is overwhelming ( Similarly, such research demonstrates that behaviourism is nonsense.

The implications for Safety is significant especially in what we expect of others in memory, decision making and incident investigation.

In SPoR we teach this by using the 1B3M model ( ), metaphor, myth. The model reminds us that decision making is NOT binary and that memory is neither vertical or horizontal but embodied.

This leads to a new understanding of learning and changes expectations in training and training design. All SPoR curriculum and programs embody an embodied understanding of learning.

In SPoR we shift the emphasis from brain-centrism to Socialitie, so that we understand learning as situated and relational.

All of this is practical, positive, doable and it works ( And much of what SPoR does is free and downloadable (

When SPoR deconstructs and criticises something it is not as if there is no alternative or reconstructed positive. Similarly, it’s not as if this is some scheme to make money.

Neither is SPoR offering a silver bullet indeed, the opposite. Yet, as we are confronted by greater complexity, vulnerability, uncertainty and ambiguity there is hope in methods that focus on Socialitie, relationships and skills in engagement.

And yes, there are plenty of organisations Nationally and Internationally benefitting from the applications of methods from SPoR. If you are interested it is as simple as an email to get started (

One Brain Three Minds Supplementary from Human Dymensions on Vimeo.

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