Promoting Informed Use and Best Practices for ADR in Washington
May 4-5, 2012
19th Annual Northwest Dispute Resolution Conference
John J. Medina, Affiliate Professor, Bioengineering, University of Washington, Seattle, WA
Saturday, May 5, 2012 8:30 a.m. – 10:00 a.m.
Professor Medina will discuss brain research that mediators can use in their practice. He will review the concept of Theory of Mind and what stimulates the executive function and creativity. He will then focus on brain science research about how traditional grief counseling does not work and how new approaches being developed are relevant to mediation.
This talk involves a cognitive process called Theory of Mind, often abbreviated “ToM.”
What is Theory of Mind? The best illustration may be an example. This one comes from Ernest Hemingway, who was once challenged to write an entire novel in only six words. He wrote something that could easily be found on Craigslist these days, and considers it his best work:
For Sale. Baby Shoes. Never used.
Do these six words make you sad? Make you wonder what happened to the person who wrote it? Can you infer the mental state of the author, perhaps a couple?
Most humans can, and we use ToM skills to do it. First coined by noted primatologist David Premack, Theory of Mind, has two components. The first is the ability to detect someone else’s interior psychological state, their intentions, their beliefs, their motivations. The second is the realization that though these states may be different than your own, they are still valid for the person with whom you are interacting. You develop a theory of how their mind works, even if it differs from your own.
Your reaction to the six words above is instructive. These could have been written by a couple who’s baby died shortly after birth - and you feel the pangs of their sadness and empathize. You may never have experienced the grief of having lost a child – you may not even have children. Nonetheless, using your advanced Theory of Mind skills, you can experience their reality. The shortest novel in the world can reveal a universe of feeling because of it.
As this talk will explain, Theory of Mind skills are a very important component of any human interaction. It is especially important when trying to resolve conflict.
Dr. John J. Medina, a developmental molecular biologist, has a lifelong fascination with how the mind reacts to and organizes information. He is the author of the New York Times bestseller Brain Rules: 12 Principles for Surviving and Thriving at Work, Home, and School -- a provocative book that takes on the way our schools and work environments are designed. His latest book is a must-read for parents and early-childhood educators: Brain Rules for Baby: How to Raise a Smart and Happy Child from Zero to Five. Medina is an affiliate Professor of Bioengineering at the University of Washington School of Medicine. He is also the director of the Brain Center for Applied Learning Research at Seattle Pacific University.
See the website, resources and videos for John Medina's New York Times' Bestseller, Brain Rules, at brainrules.net.