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Integral Principle #2 – Modeling and Mimicry are Essential Survival Strategies

– by Brent Cameron

Learning is a natural attribute inherent as a biological survival mechanism in the human species. Although learning is an attribute of many species, from what we can deduce, it is in one of the most advanced and sophisticated forms in humans. Our ability to mimic and create new dimensions of understanding through modeling is fundamental to language learning. We are designed to model and copy the behaviors, ideas, assumptions and presuppositions of significant others in our lives as children in order to learn the fundamental skills of the species. Model learning is natural and co-existent with curiosity and enthusiasm and together form the basis of authentic learning.

One of the most significant experiences of my life was bonding with my daughter. As an unbonded 30-year-old male, I was transformed by my connection with my daughter. Without saying a word, I felt that she communicated more to me about the meaning and dimensions of life just by looking back into my eyes. Without a word, without being able to think in English, just with her presence of being, she touched the essence of my being. Becoming attached or bonded as a conscious adult gave me the opportunity to both experience the process and observe and think about it at the same time.

I knew nothing about the phenomenon at the time, yet over the past 30 years have focused much of my informal research on attachment literature and cognitive neuroscience that deals with bonding and its effects on the brain (Schore, 1994, Siegel, 2007). I think that bonding and attachment are primary mechanisms at the core of mimicry and modeling.

My observations of her engagement with the world caused me to rethink how we learn, realizing specifically that learning is not through instruction but engagement and involvement as a consequence of curiosity and enthusiasm to understand. I was further astounded because my daughter learned to talk through play, discovery, and mimicry, on her own terms, on her own agenda and as a natural consequence of living in the world and exploring through mimicry the linguistic realm of relationship with others. I came to realize that mimicry or modeling was at the heart of learning in a natural way.

With the tools from Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP), which I began studying in 1983, the year I started Wondertree, I began watching behaviors and listening to unconscious language patterns as insights into the structuring of understanding in relationship. NLP was created in the early 1970’s by Dr. John Grinder, a linguistics professor at the University of California, Santa Cruz and Richard Bandler, a psychology student at the time. It is the study of subjective experience focusing on communication and the application of epistemological strategies in order to achieve personal change and excellence. Consequently I developed a deeper appreciation and awareness of unconscious process. By learning how to read surface structure behavior I learned how to attune to deep structure inner learning patterns and observed young people being influenced through their unconscious connection with others.


Brent Cameron, the founder of SelfDesign®, completed a doctorate at the University of British Columbia in 2010, submitting a dissertation entitled “SelfDesign®: An Inquiry Into Authentic Learning And Co-Inspiration.”

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