The Need for a More Effective Science of Cultural Practices
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
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