January 4, 2010 | Mark Paradies

Monday Accident & Lessons Learned: Accept Defeat – The Neuroscience of Screwing Up

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When can an accident teach us something about investigating accidents? When the accident helps us understand the human brain and it’s limitations.

A story in Wired Magazine titled: “Accept Defeat: The Neuroscience of Screwing Up” explains how scientists often disregard information that conflicts with their “hypothesis” and how this is caused by the way the human brain is wired. I recommend reading the article to better understand this phenomenon.

But how does this relate to accident investigation? Here’s the answer…

Root cause analysis systems based on the theory of cause-and-effect require the investigator to develop a hypothesis and then look for evidence to prove or disprove the hypothesis. The theory of cause-and-effect requires the investigator to already understand the cause-and-effect relationships they are looking for. Thus, they can only find cause-and-effect relationships that they already understand.

However their brain, according to the research in the article, automatically keeps them from seeing evidence counter to their hypothesis or outside their experience.

That is why cause-and-effect root cause analysis techniques frequently have widely different results when used by different individuals looking at similar evidence. Each individual sees the “evidence” the way they want to see it to support their theory of the accident’s cause.

TapRooT® is not built on this cause-and-effect theory. Instead, it is based on unfiltered review of the evidence leading the investigator to develop a detailed explanation of what happened before they start to analyze why it happened. The evidence isn’t collected to verify a hypothesis. Rather, it is collected to expand the investigator’s knowledge and understanding.

Also, instead of depending on the investigator’s knowledge of cause-and-effect, TapRooT® has built-in expert systems to help the investigator see causes that may be beyond their current knowledge of the cause-and-effect relationships of the incident being investigated. These built-in expert systems help the investigator side-step their brain’s built-in simplifying mechanisms and find causes that they might not have originally suspected (or even understood).

Of course, any investigator can stubbornly hold to preconceived notions, but TapRooT® doesn’t fall into the “scientist’s trap” that this article talks about. It naturally helps investigators go beyond their preconceived ideas and previous experience.

That’s an important lesson learned!

If you don’t care about the brain-science behind why TapRooT® works and other root cause analysis techniques fail, that’s OK! Don’t worry … You don’t have to be a neuroscientist to use TapRooT®. We’ll teach you how to use TapRooT® in a 2-Day, 3-Day, or 5-Day Course and then you can take advantage of the advanced science that is invisible to the user but is built into the TapRooT® System.

What?!? You haven’t learned TapRooT®? Then now is the right time to get to a course and experience how TapRooT® can help you find root causes that you previously would have overlooked and develop corrective actions that you and your management will agree are much more effective. Don’t wait! Sign up for a course at:


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