The Need for a More Effective Science of Cultural Practices
- 324 Downloads
Behavior analysis has produced a robust theoretical analysis of the contingencies involved in cultural evolution. Yet, thus far, the empirical yield of this work remains quite limited. With this paper, I attempt to provide specific examples of the ways to advance an experimental analysis of the contingencies involved in cultural evolution. I begin with a review of the theoretical analyses developed by behavior analysts and other contextually oriented scientists. Next, I submit that, if the goal of our science is both predicting and influencing cultural phenomena, we must produce experimental analyses of the impact of meta-contingencies on organizations’ practices. There is no more pressing reason for doing this than the threat of climate change posed by the continuing growth in human use of fossil fuels. Therefore, the paper provides an analysis of the contingencies influencing organizational practices now affecting continued use of fossil fuels and the contingencies for organizations seeking to prevent their use. One concrete step to advance a science of cultural change relevant to climate change would be to create a database of organizations that are promoting vs. working to prevent fossil fuel consumption and the consequences that seem to maintain their practices. I call for experimental analysis of the impact of altering consequences for these practices and for experimental analyses of interventions intended to change the norms, values, and behavior of organizational leaders who can influence fossil fuel consumption. I then discuss the role of prosocial behavior and values in affecting behavior relevant to reducing fossil fuel consumption because the empirical evidence shows that prosociality favors more “green” behavior. Recent advances in prevention research have identified interventions to promote prosociality, but we need experimental analyses of how advocacy organizations can be more effective in getting these interventions widely adopted.
KeywordsCultural evolution Climate change Behavior analysis Organizational practices Human wellbeing
The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (1R01AA021726-01A1) provided financial support to the author during his work on this manuscript. The content is solely the responsibility of the author and does not necessarily represent the official views of the NIAAA or the National Institutes of Health. I would like to thank Christine Cody for her usual diligent and thoughtful editing of this paper. And I would like to thank Robyn Walser for her impassioned advocacy for research and action to address climate change.
Compliance with Ethical Standards
The author has not submitted this manuscript to any other journal for simultaneous consideration. The manuscript has not been published previously (partly or in full). This paper does not involve a specific study or project data, and thus, no data have been fabricated or manipulated. The author has not presented any theories, text, or data that is not his own. He has cited all referenced material, using quotes if citing anything verbatim, including page numbers. As the sole author of this paper, the author is responsible for all statements and theories presented in the paper.
Conflict of Interest
The author declares that he has no conflict of interest.
- Alavosius, M., Newsome, D., Houmanfar, R., & Biglan, A. (2016). A functional contextualist analysis of the behavior and organizational practices relevant to climate change. In S. Hayes, D. Barnes-Homes, R. Zettle, & A. Biglan (Eds.), Handbook for contextual behavioral science (Vol. 26). Oxford: Wiley.Google Scholar
- American Scientist Online (2006) Interview with Lester Brown. Available at http://www.americanscientist.org/template/InterviewTypeDetail/assetid/50434.
- Biglan, A. (1995). Changing cultural practices: a contextualist framework for intervention research. Reno: Context Press.Google Scholar
- Biglan, A. (2004). Direct written testimony in the case of the U.S.A. vs. Phillip Morris et al. U.S. Department of Justice.Google Scholar
- Biglan, A. (2015). The nurture effect: how the science of human behavior can improve our lives and our world. Oakland: New Harbinger.Google Scholar
- Biglan, A., Ary, D. V., Koehn, V., Levings, D., Smith, S., Wright, Z., . . . & Henderson, J. (1996). Mobilizing positive reinforcement in communities to reduce youth access to tobacco. American Journal of Community Psychology, 24, 625–638.Google Scholar
- Biglan, A., Ary, D. V., & Wagenaar, A. C. (2000). The value of interrupted time-series experiments for community intervention research. Prevention Research, 1, 31–49.Google Scholar
- Biglan, A., & Glenn, S. S. (2013). Toward prosocial behavior and environments: behavioral and cultural contingencies in a public health framework. In G. J. Madden, W. V. Dube, T. Hackenberg, G. P. Hanley, & K. A. Lattal (Eds.), APA handbook of behavior analysis (Translating principles into practice, Vol. 2, pp. 255–275). Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.Google Scholar
- Brown, D. (2010). Do current fossil fuel industry commercials encourage Americans to engage in unethical climate change causing behavior? Ethics and Climate, Blog. Widener University Commonwealth Law Institute. Permalink: http://ethicsandclimate.org/2010/09/02/do_current_fossil_fuel_industry_commercials_encourage_americans_to_engage_in_unethical_behavior_on_c/.
- Democracy Now (2005). ExxonMobil spends millions funding global warming skeptics. Available at http://www.democracynow.org/article.pl?sid=05/04/22/1338256.
- Diamond, J. (1999). Guns, germs, and steel: the fates of human societies. New York: Norton.Google Scholar
- Diamond, J. (2005). Collapse: how societies choose to fail or succeed. New York: Viking Adult.Google Scholar
- Gilbert, T. (1978). Human competence: engineering worthy performance. New York: McGraw Hill.Google Scholar
- Halberstam, D. (1986). The reckoning. New York: Morrow.Google Scholar
- Harris, M. (1974). Cows, pigs, wars, and witches. The riddles of culture. New York: Vintage.Google Scholar
- Harris, M. (1977). Cannibals and kings: the origins of cultures. New York: Random House.Google Scholar
- Harris, M. (1979). Cultural materialism: the struggle for a science of culture. New York: Simon & Schuster.Google Scholar
- Harris, M. (1989). Our kind: who we are, where we came from, and where we are going. New York: Harper Collins.Google Scholar
- Hayes, S. C., Barnes-Holmes, D., & Roche, B. (2001). Relational frame theory: a post-Skinnerian account of human language and cognition. New York: Springer Science & Business Media.Google Scholar
- Hughes, S., & Barnes-Holmes, D. (2016). Relational frame theory. In S. Hayes, D. Barnes-Homes, R. Zettle, & A. Biglan (Eds.), Handbook for contextual behavioral science (Vol. 10). Oxford: Wiley.Google Scholar
- Kasser, T., & Linn, S. (2004). Public attitudes toward the youth marketing industry and its impact on children. Document available online at: http://www.asu.edu/educ/epsl/CERU/Community%20Corner/CERU-0405-212-RCC.pdf.
- Klein, N. (2014). This changes everything: capitalism vs. the climate. New York: Simon & Schuster.Google Scholar
- McLean, B., & Nocera, J. (2011). All the devils are here: the hidden history of the financial crisis. New York: Penguin.Google Scholar
- Ponting, C. (1992). A green history of the world: the environment and the collapse of great civilizations. New York: St. Martin's.Google Scholar
- Sober, E., & Wilson, D. S. (1999). Unto others: the evolution and psychology of unselfish behavior. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
- Union of Concerned Scientists. (2015). Action center. Available at http://www.ucsusa.org/action-center.
- Union of Concerned Scientists. (N. D.). Existing cap-and-trade programs to cut global warming emissions. Available at http://www.ucsusa.org/global_warming/solutions/reduce-emissions/regional-cap-and-trade.html#.VpA16E1IifA.
- Wilson, D. S. (2003). Darwin’s cathedral. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
- Wilson, D. S. (2015). Does altruism exist? Culture, genes, and the welfare of others. New Haven: Yale University Press.Google Scholar