What is the Human Body for in Safety?

What is the Human Body for in Safety?

The body-mind problem (https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/neuroscience/mind-body-problem ) ought to be a concern for anyone interested in how organisations tackle risk.

The first thing to note is that whilst Safety is concerned about the body and how it gets injured, it tends to divorce the body from its thinking when dealing with the problem. Safety tends to make poor behaviours a brain problem that is, that the brain is a computer that controls the body. It is as if the industry believes that the body is what gets in the way of thinking and ‘thinking’ only occurs in the brain. Such a view is Cartesian and is not supported by any research in Neuroscience or Neuropsychology.

The evidence is overwhelming that the body participates in thinking and decision making and that the brain is NOT the centre of decision making. Even when Safety uses the language of ‘neuroscience’ it still uses the discourse of behaviourism:

None of this tackles neuroscience but rather uses neuroscience as a brand for behaviourism.

If you want to make a start of understanding neuroscience or neuropsychology try some of these:

  • Chalmers – The Conscious Mind
  • Chalmers – The Character of Consciousness
  • Claxton – Intelligence in the Flesh
  • Damasio – Descartes Error
  • Damasio – The Feeling of What Happens
  • Durt – Embodiment, Enaction and Culture
  • Fuchs – ecology of the brain
  • Ginot – The Neuropsychology of the Unconscious
  • Noe – Out of our Heads
  • Panksepp – Affective Neuroscience
  • Raaven – The Self Beyond Itself
  • Robinson – Out of Our Mind
  • Tversky – Mind in Motion
  • Van der Kolk – The Body Keeps the Score
  • Varela – The Embodied Mind

What all the research in neuroscience or neuropsychology tells us is that intelligence, mentalitie, thinking and decision-making is embodied.

Even at a very simple level we know that humans have bodily systems that think and make decisions on their own, these are the: Endocrine System, The Immune System and the Nervous System. See Figure 1. Three Human Systems.

Figure 1. Three Human Systems.


As Guy Claxton (Intelligence in the Flesh) tells us: ‘The brain doesn’t direct decisions it hosts conversations’.

What this means is that these systems inform the brain of a decision already made by the system. If the slow brain had to rationally process information to get things done, most of us would be already dead. This is what we discuss in SPoR as One Brain Three Minds (https://vimeo.com/156926212 ).

Humans have a brain-mind but also have an integrated set of systems that are also Mindful ie. they have a mind of their own. This is why we often refer to Mind as person and mind as brain in our studies. This is why we give value to ‘gut thinking’ (unconscious heuristics learned over time so that we don’t need slow rational thinking).

Unless Safety moves away from this crazy brain-centric thinking, nothing will improve but we will keep on punishing people for wrong brain thinking and keep running programs on brain-solutions to un-safety.

Just read any of the safety sites listed above and look for anything to do with embodiment, interaffectivity or intercorporeality (https://oaj.fupress.net/index.php/pam/article/view/7256/7236 ) and you won’t find it. This tells you that none of these sites are interested in neuroscience or neuropsychology. All we see is just more behaviourism (https://safetyrisk.net/kicking-the-behaviourism-habit/ ) under a badge made meaningless by the safety industry. Poor olde Safety addicted to behaviourism and doesn’t know what to do (https://safetyrisk.net/turning-neuroscience-into-behaviourism/ ).

What the Social Psychology of Risk (SPoR) offers is a holistic approach to tackling risk (https://safetyrisk.net/holistic-responses-to-mental-health/ ). Unless safety understands interaffectivity and intercorpreality it will never move past the punitive nonsense of behaviourism. It will always wonder why it injures people in the process of doing safety, it will always wonder why it gets mental health wrong and always think that the human body exists as a carrier for a computer.

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