Out of the Lab: Shaping an Ecological and Constructional Cultural Systems Science

  • Mark A. Mattaini
Cultural and Behavioral Systems Science


Contemporary societies face critical, interlocking, “wicked” challenges, including economic inequities and marginalization, personal and collective violence, ethnic and religious conflicts, degradation of “the commons,” climate change, and more, and all of these issues clearly are grounded in behavior. An adequate culturo-behavior science could be positioned to advance and leverage research and interventions supporting community well-being, and contribute to overcoming urgent societal and global challenges. The current state of cultural systems science, however, is limited by theory and methodology, and by competition for attention with well-established research and practice opportunities related to individual-level challenges. In this article, the author explores those limitations, and suggests a more expansive perspective drawing on historical and contemporary ecological science and contemporary theories of complex systems. Research guided by established science within those disciplines offers opportunities to move cultural systems science out of the lab, and into a more adequate, environmentally rich stance drawing on ecological strategies, recursively integrating contextual observations, conceptual advances, and in vivo experimentation. Examples of each of those strategies and exploration of developmental programs of research grounded in such integration are explored.


Cultural systems science Ecological systems Culturo-behavior science Complex systems 



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© Association for Behavior Analysis International 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Jane Addams College of Social WorkUniversity of Illinois at ChicagoChicagoUSA
  2. 2.PaguateUSA

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