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The Neurobiology of Space - Exercises

The Developing Group, 4 August, 2007

Three exploratory exercises formed the context for the day.

Exercise 1 - Modelling Spaces- in pairs - 20 minutes each way


For the client to self-model their perception of several ‘physical’ spaces.

For the facilitator to develop their skills at modelling and maintaining a person's attention on spatial information.

Facilitator says:
1. Where do you want to be and where do you want me to be? (Client locates both)
2. What spaces do you notice?
3. Select 3 of those spaces spaces.

4. Facilitate the person to describe the attributes of each of the 3 spaces.

5. And then, what’s the same and what’s different about the 3 spaces?

Things for the facilitator to notice during the exercise:

What kind of places are called 'spaces'?

As we cannot directly perceive space, we have to compute it, what characteristics are used to categorise spaces?

When does a person's description became less external-sensory and more imaginary-metaphorical, e.g.

a)    The space up there has a curved shape, with flat surfaces.
b)    It seems to have a direction.
c)    I can imagine myself standing in that space.

Exercise 2 - Blind Clean Space - in pairs - 30 minutes each way.


Vision dominates our sense of space, so what is our sense of space when we have no sight of the external environment?
1.  Represent a desired outcome (=B).
2.  Place B where it needs to be.
3.  Put on blindfold.
4.  Locate starting position (=A).
5.  Facilitator marks with a post-it note each space (about 6) visited by the client and in which direction they were facing.
6.  At the end the client removes blindfold and notices configuration of spaces.

The words in red below are the changes from the original process described in our article Clean Space: Modelling human perception through emergence

Exercise 3 - Spaces Between- in pairs - 30 minutes each way.

We designed this activity using a mixture of processes originated by David Grove - Clean Language, Clean Space, Clean Worlds and Emergent Knowledge. Articles on these subjects can be found in the menus on the left of this page.

On your own:

1.     Identify a topic of interest or a desired outcome.
        Represent it on a piece of paper (label it B).

2.     What do you know about that B?
        Represent that  knowing on another piece of paper. (label it A).

3.     Ask yourself six times: And what else do I know about B?
        i.e. identify six other knowings and put each of those on separate pieces of paper
        (number them 1 to 6).
        You should now have 8 pieces of paper.

With a partner:

NB:  This exercise is about the ‘space between’ and not about the content on the paper.

4.     Place B where it needs to be.
        Place yourself where you need to be in relation to B.
        Put A where you are.
        Place the six other knowings where they need to be in relation to A and B.

5.     Starting at A, visit each space in turn and notice the extent of each space.
        (Facilitator to note the client’s words that describe the space between,
        e.g. ‘gap’, ‘shared boundary’, ‘edge’, ‘overlap’, etc.)

6.     Return to A and select a space-between.
        Identify the attributes of the space-between selected,
- And does that ... have a size or a shape?     (... is a space between word)
- And what’s on either side of that ...?
- And how far does the ‘overlap’ overlap?
- And how far does ... extend?
- And what’s behind ...?
- And what’s between ... and ...?
7.    Select another 'space between' and repeat Step 6 several times

8.    End by returning to A and asking:

        - And what do you know now?
        - And is there anything about these spaces that needs to be different?

        If yes (and after they have made the alteration):

        - And what do you know now?

© 2007, Penny Tompkins and James Lawley
James Lawley

James LawleyJames Lawley offers psychotherapiy to individuals and couples, and coaching, research and consultancy to organisations. He is a co-developer of Symbolic Modelling and co-author (with Penny Tompkins) of Metaphors in Mind: Transformation through Symbolic Modelling, (with Marian Way) Insights in Space: How to use Clean Space to solve problems, generate ideas and spark creativity and an Online training in Clean Language and Symbolic Modelling. For a more detailed biography see about us and his blog.

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