Richly Reinforce Behavior!

We can create the warm, nurturing world we want by richly reinforcing prosocial behavior. We need families, schools, workplaces, and neighborhoods filled with praise, recognition, rewards, hugs, attention, laughter, caring, and interest. If we do that we will increase all kinds of cooperation, caring, and effort. After nearly forty years in the behavioral sciences, doing empirical research and publishing papers in important (harrumph, harrumph) journals, I have a reaction to writing this: that it will seem so loose and unscientific. All you need is love! Sure. Right. That song was written forty years ago, but the world doesn’t seem a…

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Well Being

Americans feel less sense of well being, according to a recent Gallup poll. You can see the poll results. The report notes that the Life Evaluation sub-index fell 14.3 points from a high of 47.4 in February to a low of 33.1 in November. The Life Evaluation Index categorizes respondents as either “thriving”, “struggling”, or “suffering”, in accordance with how they rate their current lives as well as their expectation of where they will be in five years using a “ladder” scale with steps numbered from 0 to 10, where “0” indicates the worst possible life and “10” the best…

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Acceptance and Healthy Lives

Acceptance is a key to healthy living and loving relationships. While I could cite the science of this to the nth degree, I think illustration is useful. As I write this I am waiting at the Arizona Cancer Center; it is my 15 month checkup, after the amputation of my right ring finger for what is called, subungual melanoma—a very rare cancer under the fingernail. The Center has only had five cases, and this is one of the world-class places for the treatment of melanoma. The atmosphere of the Center is both calming and anxiety provoking. The beauty of the…

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Psychological Flexibility

Nurturing environments foster psychological flexibility. People are not rigidly attached to their beliefs and so are tolerant of the things other people do. They are clear about their values and act in the service of those values, even when doing so feels difficult or frustrating. They tend not to criticize or complain about other people’s behavior. Because they are less judgmental, they are less likely to punish or hurt others and more likely to praise, support, attend to, and care for others. The best example I can think of is the patient mothering of an infant. I watch my daughter-in-law…

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Speaking of NON-nurturing Environments

Yesterday’s New York Times has an article about high rates of violence among soldiers returning from Iraq. The article states that “Nine current or former members of Fort Carson’s Fourth Brigade Combat Team have killed someone or were charged with killings in the last three years after returning from Iraq.” In an article last January, the Times identified 121 instances in which returning veterans of Iraq or Afghanistan had committed murder. Numerous other instances of assault and rape have occurred. After much prodding from Senator Ken Salazar, the Army is investigating the problem. Major General Mark Graham, who is the…

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Terrorism, Nurturing Environments, and the Latest Violence in Gaza

Cnn.com reports that at least 160 people were killed in a retaliotory attack by the Israeli’s against Hamas in Gaza. Dennis Embry and I published the following several weeks ago in the Eugene Register Guard. We will not put an end to such violence until we make use of behavioral science knowledge about why such exchanges occur. Prevailing views about the “war” on terror are directly contrary to scientific understanding of human behavior. Human beings who are traumatized by attack become highly motivated to counterattack. Yet government leaders in the U.S. pursue a military strategy that pays little attention to…

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Minimize Toxic Environments

The first thing we need to do to ensure human wellbeing is minimize biologically and psychologically toxic elements in people’s environments. In each of the roles in your life—parent, spouse, worker, policy maker, friend, neighbor—if you look for ways to minimize your own and other people’s exposure to toxic events, you will be laying the groundwork for a more peaceful, productive society with much less crime, drug abuse, depression, and conflict. Start with the prenatal period. The developing fetus is harmed by maternal smoking, alcohol use, and drug use.Patty Brennan at Emory University has shown that maternal smoking can contribute…

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Health Care

NPR had a story on Paul Farmer this morning. He is a physician and anthropologist who is devoting his life to helping people achieve the most basic nurturing condition, adequate health care. Until people have health care they will find it difficult to nurture their children’s development in other ways. Farmer speak of his idealism in seeking health care for everyone. Behavioral science can help make this a reality. Influencing the organizations of society to support universal health care is a matter that can be studied using the tools of science. For example, whether Oregon finally provides health care to…

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Nurturing Environments

I created this blog to promote the spread of nurturing environments. Societies that increase the prevalence of nurturing family, school, workplace, and community environments will improve the wellbeing of their members in virtually every respect. They will reduce child abuse, marital conflict, crime, substance abuse, depression, prejudice, and interpersonal conflict. They will increase cooperation, productivity, healthy child development, and fun. Over the past forty years, behavioral and biological scientists have studied all of the most common and costly problems of human beings. They have made great advances in the treatment and prevention of psychological problems like depression and anxiety; behavioral…

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