The Vicariance The Brain as Creator of Universes
Alain Berthoz is a professor at the Collège de France, where he heads the Laboratory on Physiology, Perception and Action. He is notably the author of the following, published by Editions Odile Jacob: Phénoménologie et physiologie de l’action, Le Sens du mouvement, La Décision and La Simplexité.
Understanding the mechanisms of human creativity is one of the ancient enigmas of scientific research. Pursuing the work of elucidation that he had begun with the earlier La Décision and La Simplexité, Alain Berthoz has now pinpointed a new key concept that he calls ‘vicariance’, which plays a major role in our creative behaviour and capacity.
Vicariance comes into play when one sense replaces another that is for some reason impaired (when we feel our way in the dark, for example). Whenever we make use of several strategies to achieve the same goal, we are actually using ‘vicariant’ processes developed during the evolutionary process. The ability to replace one function by another would seem to be an essential skill, wired into our brains to enable us to apprehend new situations and to invent new ones.
All creative actions imply a change in point of view, one that offers a new perspective. Berthoz argues that only vicariance is capable of provoking such a shift. This highly accessible book enables us to discover the behavioural and neuronal bases of vicariance.
It is clear that this concept will have important consequences in education, which must adapt teaching methods to each student’s capacities and, more broadly, in defending individuals in the face of the larger issues that rule today’s world.
• A new, particularly productive concept to explain human actions and perception.
• A concept that places humans, with their diversity and creativity, at centre stage.