Engineers Australia

Cognitive Dissonance in Geotechnical Engineering

2018 AGS Practitioner Award Presentation Tour

Dr Burt Look

Cognitive dissonance is the incompatibility between any two elements of knowledge or belief. We often filter information that conflicts with what you already believe, to avoid contradictory statements occurring. The term can also be loosely used when contradictory statements occur. There are many contradictory statements in Geotechnical Engineering – a few of these will be discussed.

There are many common geotechnical practices that have historically served the engineering community well, but continue to be used in common practice, even when later knowledge has shown inconsistencies. Can risk management substitute for data? But even with data, why would a group of Engineers presented with the same data so often have different conclusions? When did data become a point of view? A sampling of such dissonance in common geotechnical practice is presented through case studies.

About the speaker

Dr Burt LookSenior Principal, FSG Geotechnics + Foundations

Dr Burt Look is a Principal at the Foundations Specialists – Geotechnics + Foundations. He completed his Master’s degree in Soil Mechanics and Engineering Seismology at Imperial College, London, and his PhD part time at The University of Queensland while also working at Queensland Main Roads. He also has a Graduate Certificate in Philosophy from The University of Queensland.

Burt has 39 years professional Engineering experience with his early years in structural and civil works. He was previously the Global Practice Leader in SKM (now Jacobs), and also at Aurecon. Burt is the 2014 Queensland Professional Engineer of the year and the Australian Geomechanics Society (AGS) Practitioner 2018. Burt was awarded the Medal of the Order of Australia (OAM) in 2020. Burt has published 3 geotechnical engineering books and over 90 technical publications focused on industry practice developments.

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