Behavioral Ecology: A Social Systems Approach to Environmental Problems

  • Don F. Hake


The behavior analyst who is considering a career in the area of environmental problems faces a variety of complex questions. The area has changed since the early 1970s when behavior analysts first began to work on littering. The major questions then were standard openers for a new area: (1) “Is there anything that will cause people to pick up trash?” (2) “Can the dependent variable be measured accurately?” However, the questions have become more difficult as problems have become more serious, more research is done, more disciplines enter the field, and researchers and society more closely approach the heart of the problems. Instead of becoming more concerned with the principles and/or methodology of behavior analysis, some questions concern topics more closely related to other disciplines and to the analysis of society’s overall goals and policies. The first question is an economic one: (1) “The procedure is effective, but do its benefits outweigh its costs?” (2) “The procedure worked on my three neighbors, but will it work on a larger scale in an industry, with an entire community, or statewide?” (3) “Will my procedure be selected over those from other areas? Will behavior-analysis solutions be major ones, or will those come from the harder sciences, from economics, or be imposed by law?” For example: “In the area of gasoline conservation, will behavioral conservation programs be of major importance relative to small cars, synthetic fuel, gadgets to save gasoline, laws, and agreements in international politics?” (4) “Would my skills be put to better use if I worked with professionals from other disciplines such as engineers to change technology into innovation or, with politicians and governmental agencies to determine the most effective laws, and to ensure accurate reports from industry?” (5) “Is my program aimed at the crucial target population? Perhaps the heart of the problem lies with big industry or streamlining governmental agencies to act effectively?” (6) “Why must we always wait for a crisis? Is not prevention the area where an effective methodology or procedure could have its most important impact?”


Discriminative Stimulus Behavior Analysis Behavioral Ecology Governmental Agency Chemical Pollution 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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Copyright information

© Plenum Press, New York 1981

Authors and Affiliations

  • Don F. Hake
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of PsychologyWest Virginia UniversityMorgantownUSA

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