Using Arts-Based Methods to Explore Learning in an Individual with Systemizing Bias

  • Andrew Mountfield
Part of the Palgrave Studies in Business, Arts and Humanities book series (PSBAH)


Arts-based learning is applied in a personal, autoethnographic account to support professional learning. The author uses Baron-Cohen’s empathizing–systemizing theory to describe a novel approach to using art forms (writing, drawing, photography and music) to explore a broader definition of knowledge and how this has an impact on his professional practice. Drawing on his experience writing a doctoral thesis, while leading a consulting firm, he explores the process of attraction that led to a deeper understanding of how he reacted to art, how the learning process was affected by it, how this might shed light on his own meaning-making. In a second step, he shows how this led to applying each of the four art forms in a process of deep immersion, being open to where the experience would lead and recording how his style of learning adapted itself. Lastly, he reflects on how engaging in art affected his professional practice, and the way it flowed into everyday life. In conclusion, he proposes a “systemizing alternative method” to the upward hierarchy described in the extended epistemology of Heron & Reason, which may be more appropriate to those who share his systemizing bias.


  1. Badger, G. (2007). The Genius of Photography. London: Quadrille Publishing House.Google Scholar
  2. Baron-Cohen, S. (2011). Zero Degrees of Empathy: A New Theory of Human Cruelty. London: Allen Lane.Google Scholar
  3. Barthes, R. (1980). Camera Lucida. London: Vintage UK.Google Scholar
  4. Belmonte, M. K. (2009). Human, but More So: What the Autistic Brain Tells Us About the Process of Narrative. In M. Osteen (Ed.), Autism and Representation. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  5. Byers, A. (2014). Rhythm and Flow: Re-thinking Art Therapy with an Autistic Young Man. In M. Dolphin, et al. (Eds.), Psychodynamic Art Therapy Practice with People on Autistic Spectrum. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  6. Carroll, L. (1865/2012). Alice in Wonderland. London: Penguin Classics.Google Scholar
  7. Clarke, G. (1997). The Photograph. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  8. Damasio, A. R. (2000). The Feeling of What Happens. London: Vintage.Google Scholar
  9. Eliot, T. S. (1944/2001). Four Quartets. London: Faber.Google Scholar
  10. Elkins, J. (2011). What Photography Is. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  11. Feyerabend, P. (1975). Against Method. London: Verso.Google Scholar
  12. Fitzgerald, M. (2004). Autism and Creativity. London: Brunner-Routledge.Google Scholar
  13. Gadamer, H.-G. (1960/2010). Wahrheit und Methode. Tübingen: Mohr-Siebeck.Google Scholar
  14. Geertz, C. (1973). The Interpretation of Cultures. New York, NY: Basic Books.Google Scholar
  15. Heron, J., & Reason, P. (2009). Extending Epistemology Within a Cooperative Inquiry. In P. Reason & H. Bradbury (Eds.), Handbook of Action Research. London: Sage.Google Scholar
  16. Margitay, T. (Ed.). (2010). Knowing and Being: Perspectives on the Philosophy of Michael Polanyi. Cambridge, MA: Cambridge Scholars Publishing.Google Scholar
  17. Marshall, J. (2001). Self-reflective Inquiry Practice. In Handbook of Action Research (Concise Paperback Edition). London: Sage.Google Scholar
  18. McNiff, S. (1998). Trust the Process. Boston, MA: Shambhala Publications.Google Scholar
  19. Milner, M. (1950/1971). On Not Being Able to Paint. Oxford: Heinemann.Google Scholar
  20. Nietzsche, F. (1961). Thus Spoke Zarathustra (R. J. Hollingdale, Trans.). London: Penguin.Google Scholar
  21. Ockelford, A. (2008). Music for Children and Young People with Complex Needs. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  22. Osteen, M. (2008). Autism and Representation. Abingdon: Routledge.Google Scholar
  23. Polanyi, M. (1969/1975). In M. Grede (Ed.), Knowing and Being: Essays by Michael Polanyi. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
  24. Polanyi, M. (1974). Personal Knowledge. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
  25. Reason, P., & Bradbury, H. (Eds.). (2008). The Sage Handbook of Action Research. London: Sage.Google Scholar
  26. Shakespeare, W. (1609/1990). Sonnets. London: Folio.Google Scholar
  27. Stacey, R. D. (2007). Strategic Management and Organisational Dynamics (5th ed.). Harlow: FT Prentice Hall.Google Scholar
  28. Thoreau, H. D. (1854/1996). Walden and Civil Disobedience. London: Penguin.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Andrew Mountfield
    • 1
  1. 1.Ashridge Business SchoolAshridgeUK

Personalised recommendations