Review of Jacobs’ Management Rewired: Chapters 1 & 2

Working my way through Charles Jacobs’ Management Rewired.  I have some reservations about his findings, but he does a good job to frame psychology and education’s relationships with business in specific and with practice in general. The next few post are directed to a chapter by chapter listing of first impressions.

Chapter 1 focusses on emotion over logic in decision-making.  I think this chapter is potentially confusing.  First, his card game example does not prove emotion is better than logic.  What it does suggest to me is that the emotional parts of the subjects minds picked up on the underlying logic implied in the game before the reasoning portion could state it.  This is more in line with Malcolm Gladwell‘s line of though in his book BlinkThe emotional mind was able to understand the logic of the game before the logical mind could express that logic.

What does this mean?  Well, we should pay attention to our gut.  However, the very existence of science is because our gut response is so often wrong.  Jacobs does do a good job of expressing the holistic way that the mind works and to suggest that practice should reflect the function of the mind.  For example, we may have a sound logic behind a practice, but that practice will be much more effective if we are emotionally behind it.

In chapter 2, Jacobs talks about the primacy of perception.  We can’t experience the world directly, we experience it through our minds perception and the world we experience may not be remotely similar to other peoples perception. Therefore, idea, theories, paradigm, metaphors and the like play a big role in our perception.  This idea also reflects what I believe about measurement / assessment.  You can’t understand what your measuring if you don’t base your measurements on theories.  The theoretical world and the empirical world are in a dialectical relationship.  You might think of them as 2 sides of the same coin.  I’m greatful for how Jacobs gives voice to this idea.

Jacobs also echos a theme in chapter 2 that I attribute first to Vygotsky, the relationship between lower mental functions and higher mental functions:

Lower Mental Functions (LMF): (are) inherited, unmediated, involuntary, . . . Higher Mental Functions (HMF): are socially acquired, mediated by meanings, voluntarily controlled and exists in a broad system of functions rather than as an individual unit (from the Lev Vygotsky Wiki).

LMFs (memory perception, emotion, etc. . .) can be controlled to a certain degree when they are mediated through HMFs which are Jacobs’ stories, paradigms, metaphors or theories.  The one caveat over Vygotsky is that the fMRI studies Jacobs is referencing do give us a much clearer sense of what these mental functions are, how they function, and how they are related to each other.  Vygotsky thought of LMFs as being isolated from each other, something that current knowledge and (I believe) Jacobs would refute.

Side-bar I am becoming somewhat uncomfortable with the way that Jacobs uses neuroscience.  These fMRI studies are important and enlightening, but as an educational psychologist, I see a much broader field of knowledge (like the above reference to Vygotsky).  Neuroscience seems to be used as a rhetorical device like science often is.  In example, newspaper articles will often read “studies say” when they want to indicate that the authority of science behind their conclusion, even when their conclusion is not scientific.  Neuroscience is a relatively new field that most people know little about and referencing it can give one a certain authority that psychology would not supply.  Yet, there is little in neuroscience that is really useful without taking it back to a general understanding of psychology and (in some cases) education.  I don’t begrudge Jacobs, you have to find a way to sell your ideas, but I do step back and look closely at the way he uses neuroscience in framing his (rhetorical) arguments.

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