Body-Environment Dialogue : Using Somatic Experiences to Improve Political Decision Making

University essay from Uppsala universitet/Institutionen för geovetenskaper


Humankind is facing global ecological problems and resulting from these social issues, while continually destroying the ecosystems which are the life-support mechanisms of the planet and human civilization. The socio-economic system is largely influenced by top-down decision making. Political decisions are a high leverage in sustainability issues, but contemporarily they are conducted in the reductionist way, focusing on short-term profit and jeopardizing the planet and people in the long run. The thesis explores the ways of integrating more holistic approach into political decision making.

The study describes the connection between cognitive processes (e.g. learning or decision making) and somatic experiences: human decisions are considered a dynamic product of interaction between the cognition, body and environment. The theory of deep learning helps to understand how decision making can be transformed, and embodied cognitive science explains what facilitates the process of deep learning. The study develops the concept of “body-environment dialogue” — the somatic and cognitive integration of an agent and the context through which the agent receives non-verbal information processed then into the agent’s inner knowledge. The way of processing the information, unlike analytical thinking, is grounded into mindfulness and reflection. It results in the holistic insight about the global socio-ecological system and its interconnections, awakes intrinsic values and causes the change in one’s decisions and actions. Embodied experiences and connection with natural environment are considered the ways to facilitate deep learning which, in turn, affects decision making.

The empirical part of the research tests the possibility to affect decision making through embodied contact with nature and the local context. The experimental study project based on 3-day outdoor experiential course demonstrates a certain change in the participants’ decision making as well as illustrates the challenges and drawbacks of such approach.

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