Thursday 4 March 2021

How's Your Scarf?

 Over the last few weeks I've been thinking a lot about David Rock's work, and in particular his SCARF model. It has crossed my path a few times in recent months - different people recommending it - and it seems to dovetail well with my interest in Emotional Intelligence.  I've ordered the book (How the Brain Works) but have yet to read it, so these are my initial musings, based on friends' comments, my reflections, and a David Rock video or two.

Essentially, Rock says that he has developed this model by a meta-analysis of findings in neuroscience over twenty years or so, which he has simplified into five key elements.

What he's interested in is how the fight or flight response is stimulated; and conversely how the brains reward systems may be stimulated. So SCARF is an acronym for five factors in social situations (workplace or other) that, if they are threatened, stimulate a fight or flight response; whereas if they are enhanced stimulate the brain's reward systems.

The five factors are Status, Certainty, Autonomy, Relatedness and Fairness. Intuitively (though as I say I have not yet read the book, and seen the research underpinning this) that has high plausibility. And it serves as a useful reminder, particularly when entering a new or difficult situation, about what to pay attention to. 

For example, one of the stressors of the current COVID crisis has been the high level of uncertainty; and there was palpable relief when the Prime Minister revealed his tentative road map - even that was better than simply no idea how the country might move forward.

I'm particularly interested in how this relates to Kline's Thinking Environment. I have long thought that the Thinking Environment works, in part, because it calms the amygdala (that part of the brain that scans for danger and triggers the fight or flight response). Looking at Rock's model suggests some possible ways that may occur. The emphasis on equality as one of the components of a Thinking Environment serves to allay concerns about status. The explicit promise not to interrupt and to listen attentively provides some certainty about how the conversation will proceed. The premise of the approach, that it is designed to enable and encourage independent thinking, supports autonomy very strongly. The quality of attention that the approach requires, along with the other components of appreciation and encouragement, serve to develop relatedness. And fairness is also served by the component of equality.

So that's my initial top-of-the-head thinking. Now I'll read the book (as soon as it arrives) and will develop my thinking further as I do so.  In the meantime, here's David Rock:


With thanks to Zohre Nemati and Chris Sabor for sharing their work on Unsplash

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