Public discussion about poverty frequently asks us to decide between the view that poverty is the result of cultural factors and individual shortcomings or that the poor are victims of an avaricious marketplace and harmful economic policy. However, rather than illuminating key issues, these debates too often end up as a distraction. A better approach – and one that has greater chance of uniting those across the political spectrum – is to fully account for the corrosive impact of poverty and work to identify and expand programs and practices that have been shown to be effective in combating these harmful effects. It might not be obvious from the partisan rancor over these issues, but it’s surprising just how much we already know about what works to fight poverty.
Is it possible that evolutionary theory can explain how the U.S. came to have the highest levels of child poverty and economic inequality of any developed nation? I think it can. It also can help us evolve a more nurturing form of capitalism, one in which people are more caring and productive, and they place greater value on the wellbeing of every member of society. We certainly have room for improvement. The U.S. has one the highest rates of child poverty among economically developed countries and it is harming our children. Families living in poverty have more conflict, which leads to childhood aggression and all of the social and academic failures that result from being aggressive.
Jonathon Chait seems to be trying to get a fist fight going at the New York Times. He claims in New York Magazine that a recent column by Paul Krugman was actually an attack on David Brooks. Brooks claimed that we have spent huge sums on anti-poverty efforts with no success and that the problem of poverty is due to poor people lacking middle class values. I side with Krugman on the question of whether government expenditures make a difference on poverty. But I think Krugman and other critics of Brooks are unfairly misreading Brooks’ claim.
Perhaps We Can Prevent Terrorism
Does it seem like we are winning the “war” on terror? Events in Paris, Syria, Iraq, and Libya in recent weeks make it hard to be optimistic.
We should not be surprised. Our pursuit of this “war” conflicts with scientific understanding of human behavior.
I am very excited to have Tony Biglan on Functionally Speaking. He wrote a fantastic book called The Nurture Effect: How the Science of Human Behavior Can Improve Our Lives & Our World. I highly recommend the book, and you can order it by going to the ACBS Click-Thru page first.
Reducing Stress On Our Children Improves Their Health
In addition to helping families and schools create environments where children eat nutritious food, get lots of exercise, limit screen time, and get plenty of sleep, there’s another not-so-obvious way we can protect our children’s health: reduce their stress. I found out that there are direct and powerful effects of stress in childhood that lead to early deaths in adulthood due to cardiovascular disease.
Selection By Consequences: Recovering Skinner’s Key Insight About Learning As An Evolutionary Process
Until recently, evolutionary psychologists considered behavioristic accounts of human behavior incompatible with evolutionary theory. They characterized B.F. Skinner’s work merely as part of the “standard social science model” and gave it scant attention.
But Skinner was in fact an evolutionist who extended evolutionary thinking to the selection of behavior. He argued that the open-ended capacity for behavioral and cultural change was itself an evolved capacity of the organism and an evolutionary process in its own right.
The Nurture Effect: How the Science of Human Behavior Can Improve Our Lives and Our World
“Kudos to Dr. Biglan for daring to write this book, and let’s hope for all of our sakes that policy makers adopt some of the principles.”
It’s a brave new world when a man titles a book with nurture in it. I can just hear the testosterone set griping about the feminization of society; however, Biglan does craft an easy-to-read book about an integrated perspective on raising healthy children and what we need to change in our policies to achieve this goal.
The Healthy Society in Fifty Years
One of the things that is only recently being recognized is how inter-connected psychological, behavioral and physical health are. As recognition of this fact and the fact that non-nurturing environments influence all of these problems we are beginning to evolve a health care system that is appropriate to these facts. It might be useful to think about the progress to be made in terms of four facets of our cultural practices: (a) values and goals; (b) monitoring wellbeing; (c) evidence-based programs and practices; and (e) policies.
The Nurture Effect: A Q&A with Anthony Biglan
In his new book The Nurture Effect: How the Science of Human Behavior Can Improve Our Lives and Our World, Psychologist Anthony Biglan, a senior scientist at the Oregon Research Institute, describes how interventions aimed at creating nurturing environments could help solve some of society’s most stubborn, harmful, and costly issues. Crime, delinquency, depression, and heart disease are often, he explains, the outcomes of environments that fail to promote well-being.
Episode #37: The Nurture Effect
In this episode, Trent Codd interviews Anthony Biglan, Ph.D. the author of The Nurture Effect: How the Science of Human Behavior Can Improve Our Lives and Our World.
Evolving the Prevention System That We Need
The ultimate value of the behavioral sciences is that they could improve human wellbeing (Biglan & Embry, 2003). Careful consideration of the gap between our knowledge of the factors influencing human wellbeing and current practices highlights some simple but radical steps that could accelerate societies’ efforts to improve wellbeing.
Radio Show Tues. Mar. 10, 2015
This week on Relationships 2.0 my guest is Anthony Biglan, PhD author of The Nurture Effect: How the Science of Human Behavior Can Improve Our Lives and Our World.
Boys Become Criminals by Talking About It First
“So what would you do if your girlfriend got pregnant? Shoot her?”
“No, punch her in the stomach, real hard.”
This conversation occurred in an observation room at Oregon Social Learning Center. Tom Dishion and his colleagues were trying to learn more about why some kids become delinquent. He and many other behavioral scientists knew that most adolescents who get in trouble do so with other adolescents. Delinquency is a group enterprise. But Dishion took the research a step further. He wanted to see if he could actually observe the social influence processes that motivate kids to defy adult expectations and engage in criminal acts.
Behavioral Science May Prove to Be Our Most Important Science
Science has changed our world. We take for granted the impact of the physical and biological sciences on our world, forgetting that it once took months to get from the East coast to the West coast or to communicate with someone across the ocean. Science has dramatically improved our health too. In nineteenth century England more than 100,000 people died of cholera before John Snow showed that contaminated water was the cause of cholera.
How empirical studies of political violence (can) help policymakers
In a recent New York Times opinion piece, “Where Terrorism Research Goes Wrong,” social psychologist Anthony Biglan argues that, given the importance of antiterrorism programs and the huge resources devoted to them, far too few are subjected to randomized controlled trials (RCTs) evaluating their efficacy. To his knowledge only two such studies have been undertaken: one evaluating the effects of aid in Afghanistan, the other evaluating the effects of an anti-violence campaign preceding a Nigerian election. While we heartily agree with his appeal for more RCTs, his evaluation of the state of the field is inaccurate, and it’s worth discussing why.
Book Review: The Nurture Effect
Famed behavioral psychologist B. F. Skinner, my mentor in graduate school, died a happy man. From his hospital bed, he motioned to his daughter to pass him a glass of water, took a sip and said, “Marvelous”—his last word on earth. He had led a long, fulfilling life, and his impact on the behavioral sciences was perhaps unparalleled. There was good reason for his contentment.
Where Terrorism Research Goes Wrong
TERRORISM is increasing. According to the Global Terrorism Database at the University of Maryland, groups connected with Al Qaeda and the Islamic State committed close to 200 attacks per year between 2007 and 2010, a number that grew by more than 200 percent, to about 600 attacks, in 2013.