Mark Hammer

Call me a sourpuss, but as someone who spent over a decade in the animal lab studying the neurophysiology of memory, learning, and attention, and another decade studying human cognition across the lifespan, and yet another decade studying organizational dynamics and HRM, my eyes roll over – shark-style – when I see this sort of stuff.

There is absolutely no need, beyond the rhetorical, to appeal to brain mechanisms. We ARE our brains. When we talk about us, and the world of our experiences, we have automatically included the brain, and don’t need to raise it separately. When I had the pleasure and honour of attending a weeklong series of talks on dualism and the mind/brain “problem” by Nobel Prize-winning neuroscientist Roger Sperry some 25 years ago, Sperry noted that while, of course, rubber balls are the sum total of their molecules,”You don’t explain the behaviour of a rubber ball by appealing to its molecular components. You explain it by appealing to the physical structure and physics of balls and rubber.” He was entirely comfortable with leaving brain and neuron out of the conversation, and appealing to mind and social constructs when they provided the more useful and workable way of addressing things. You pick the level that cuts to the chase, and leave the physical-biological reductionism aside until when it actually matters.

It is entirely sufficient to state that, if one wishes to make changes, commitment is necessary. Invoking neurons and brain adds nothing. It is entirely sufficient to state that feedback on one’s progress is important in sustaining motivation, or that engrained habits are hard to overcome. Bringing the brain into it adds nothing. If anything, invoking “the brain” makes “us” feel like mere bystanders, rather than active participants.

Again, sorry to be a wordy sourpuss. This is just a sore spot with me.