The Behavior Analyst

, Volume 9, Issue 1, pp 35–45 | Cite as

Public Policymaking and Research Information

  • Tom Seekins
  • Stephen B. Fawcett


The public policymaking process presents behavior analysts with opportunities to shape public policy and influence decisions that affect the evolution of communities. Although the scientist-advocate’s role in public policymaking has received increased attention, little attention has been given to behavioral analyses of the policymaking context. This paper describes the stages of policymaking, including agenda formation, policy adoption, policy implementation, and policy review. It also analyzes seven types of research information important in agenda formation and policy adoption—information about the dimensions of an issue, number of people affected, relative standing of an issue, interests of those involved, controlling variables, program alternatives, and program acceptability. Methods for communicating research information to policymakers are discussed.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Agar, M. H. (1980). The professional stranger: An informal introduction to ethnography. New York: Academic PressGoogle Scholar
  2. Bijou, S. W., Peterson, R. F., & Ault, M. H. (1968). A method to integrate descriptive and experimental field studies at the level of data and empirical concepts. Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis, 1, 175–191.CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  3. Balch, G. I. (1980). The stick, the carrot, and other strategies: A theoretical analysis of governmental intervention. In J. Brigham & D. W. Brown (Eds.), Policy implementation: Penalties or incentives? (pp. 43–68). Beverly Hills, CA: Sage Publications.Google Scholar
  4. Bulmer, M. (1981). Applied social research: A reformulation of “applied” and “enlightenment” models. Knowledge: Creation, Diffusion, Utilization, 3, 187–210.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Caputo, D. A. (1977). Public policy making in America: An introduction. In D. A. Caputo (Ed.), The politics of policy making in America: Five case studies (pp. 1–6). San Francisco: W. H. Freeman.Google Scholar
  6. Carpenter, P. B. (1983). The personal insights of a legislator/psychologist. American Psychologist, 38, 1216–1219.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Cobb, R., & Elder, C. (1972). Participation in American politics: The dynamics of agenda building. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press.Google Scholar
  8. Cochran, G. E., Mayer, L. C., Carr, T. R., & Cayer, N. J. (1982). American public policy: An introduction. New York: St. Martin’s Press.Google Scholar
  9. Coleman, J. S. (1972). Policy research in the social sciences. Morristown, NJ: General Learning Corporation.Google Scholar
  10. Fawcett, S. B., & Seekins, T. (1981). Behavioral assessment, social validity, and policy research: The case of the Kansas Child Passenger Safety Act. Lawrence, KS: Center for Public Affairs, University of Kansas.Google Scholar
  11. Fawcett, S. B., Seekins, T., Whang, P. W., Muiu, C., & Suarez de Balcazar, Y. (1984). Creating and using social technologies for community empowerment. Prevention in Human Services, 3, 145–171.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Freedman, A. E., & Freedman, P. E. (1975). The psychology of political control: Comprising dialogues between a modern prince and his tutor on the application of basic psychological principles to the realm of politics. New York: St. Martin’s Press.Google Scholar
  13. Geller, E. S., Winett, R. A., & Everett, P. B. (1982). Preserving the environment: New strategies for behavior change. New York: Pergamon Press.Google Scholar
  14. Gerston, L. N. (1983). Making public policy: From conflict to resolution. Glenview, IL: Scott, Foresman and Company.Google Scholar
  15. Gonzalez, H. B. (1984). Scientist and congress. Science, 244, 127–129.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Greenberger, E. (1983). A researcher in the policy arena: The case of child labor. American Psychologist, 38, 104–111.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  17. Greenwald, C. S. (1977). Group power: Lobbying and public policy. New York: Praeger.Google Scholar
  18. Jason, L. A., & Rose, T. (1984). Influencing the passage of child passenger restraint legislation. American Journal of Community Psychology, 12, 485–495.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Jones, D. J. (1976). Applied anthropology and the application of anthropological knowledge. Human Organization, 35, 221–229.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Keefe, W. J., & Ogul, M. S. (1985). The American legislative process: Congress and the states. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall.Google Scholar
  21. Kingdon, J. W. (1981). Congressmen’s voting decisions. New York: Harper & Row.Google Scholar
  22. League of Women Voters (1972a). Anatomy of a hearing. Washington, DC: League of Women Voters of the United States.Google Scholar
  23. League of Woman Voters (1972b). The politics of change: Goals, conflict, and power in the community. Washington, DC: League of Women Voters of the United States.Google Scholar
  24. League of Women Voters (1976). Making an issue of it: The campaign handbook. Washington, DC: League of Women Voters of the United States.Google Scholar
  25. Levine, M. (1981). The history and politics of community mental health. New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  26. Lukes, S. (1974). Power: A radical view. New York: Macmillan Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Lustberg, A. (1982). Testifying with impact. Washington, DC: Chamber of Commerce of the United States.Google Scholar
  28. Maccoby, E. E., Kahn, A. J., & Everett, B. A. (1983). The role of psychological research in the formation of policies affecting children. American Psychologist, 38, 80–84.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  29. Masters, J. C. (1984). Psychology, research, and social policy. American Psychologist, 39, 851–862.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. McCall, R. B. (1985). Child development and society: A primer on disseminating information to the public through the mass media. In I. E. Sigel (Ed.), Advances in applied developmental psychology (pp. 1–23). Norwood, NJ: Ablex Publishing.Google Scholar
  31. Monis, E.K. (1985). Public information, dissemination, and behavior analysis. The Behavior Analyst, 8, 95–110.Google Scholar
  32. Pallak, M. (1983). Psychology in the public forum. American Psychologist, 37, 475.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Palumbo, D. J., Fawcett, S. B., & Wright, P. (1981). Introduction. In D. J. Palumbo, S. B. Fawcett, & P. Wright (Eds.), Evaluating and optimizing public policy (pp. ix–xv). Lexington, MA: D. C. Heath.Google Scholar
  34. Parenti, M. (1970). Power and pluralism: A view from the bottom. The Journal of Politics, 32, 501–530.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Pierce, J. C., & Lovrich, N. P. (1982). Knowledge and politics: The distribution and consequences of policy-relevant information among citizens, activists, legislators, and experts. Knowledge: Creation, Diffusion, Utilization, 3, 521–554.Google Scholar
  36. Quade, E. S. (1975). Analysis for public decisions. New York: American Elsevier.Google Scholar
  37. Rappaport, J. (1977). Community psychology: Values, research, and action. New York: Holt, Rinehart, & Winston.Google Scholar
  38. Rein, M., & Schon, D. A. (1977). Problem setting in policy research. In C. A. Weiss (Ed.), Using social research in public policy making (pp. 235–251). Lexington, MA: Lexington Books.Google Scholar
  39. Rich, R. F. (1977). Use of social science information by federal bureaucrats: Knowledge for action versus knowledge for understanding. In C. H. Weiss (Ed.), Using social research in public policy making (pp. 199–211). Lexington, MA: Lexington Books.Google Scholar
  40. Robinson, D. N. (1984). Ethics and advocacy. American Psychologist, 39, 787–793.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Schattschneider, E. E. (1960). The semi-sovereign people: A realist’s view of democracy in America. New York: Holt, Rinehart, & Winston.Google Scholar
  42. Schlosberg, M. A., Czyzewski, M. J., Plante, T. G., & Otis, A. J. (1985). Behavior therapy and social policy: AABT’s national social policy network revisited. The Behavior Therapist, 8, 207–209.Google Scholar
  43. Seekins, T., & Fawcett, S. B. (1983). Placing social policy issues on the public agenda: A behavioral analysis and case studies of the use of research information. Paper presented at the annual meeting of the Association for Advancement of Behavior Therapy, Washington, DC.Google Scholar
  44. Skinner, B. F. (1953). Science and human behavior. New York: Macmillan.Google Scholar
  45. Skinner, B. F. (1969). Contingencies of reinforcement: A theoretical analysis. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall.Google Scholar
  46. Skinner, B. F. (1981). Selection by consequences. Science, 213, 501–504.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  47. Stokey, E., & Zeckhauser, R. (1978). A primer for policy analysis. New York: Norton.Google Scholar
  48. Stolz, S.B. (1981). Adoption of innovations from applied behavioral research: “Does anybody care?” Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis, 14, 491–505.CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  49. Sulzer-Azaroff, B. (1985). A behaviorist’s response to the report of the national commission on excellence in education. The Behavior Analyst, 8, 29–38.PubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  50. Takanishi, R. (1981). Preparing a policy-relevant report: Guidelines for authors. Los Alamitos, CA: SWRL Educational Research and Development.Google Scholar
  51. Waldman, S. R. (1972). Foundations of political action: An exchange theory of politics. Boston: Little, Brown and Company.Google Scholar
  52. Walker, J. L. (1977). Setting the agenda in the U.S. Senate: A theory of problem selection. Journal of Political Science, 7, 423–445.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Wallis, W. A., & Roberts, H. V. (1956). Statistics: A new approach. Glencoe, IL: The Free Press.Google Scholar
  54. Weiss, C. H. (1977). Introduction. In C. H. Weiss (Ed.), Using social research in public policy making (pp. 1–22). Lexington, MA: Lexington Books.Google Scholar
  55. Weiss, C. H., & Bucuvalas, M. J. (1977). The challenge of social research to decision making. In C. H. Weiss (Ed.), Using social research in public policy making (pp. 213–233). Lexington, MA: Lexington Books.Google Scholar
  56. Wolf, M. M. (1978). Social validity: The case for subjective measurement or how applied behavior analysis is finding its heart. Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis, 11, 203–214.CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  57. Yokley, J. M., & Glenwick, D. S. (1984). Increasing the immunization of preschool children: An evaluation of applied community interventions. Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis, 17, 313–325.CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  58. Zigler, E., & Muenchow, S. (1984). How to influence social policy affecting children and families. American Psychologist, 39, 415–420.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Association for Behavior Analysis International 1986

Authors and Affiliations

  • Tom Seekins
    • 1
  • Stephen B. Fawcett
    • 2
  1. 1.Research and Training Center on Independent LivingUniversity of KansasLawrenceUSA
  2. 2.Department of Human DevelopmentUniversity of KansasLawrenceUSA

Personalised recommendations