In this book, the authors explore the view that functional and contextual approaches in behavioral science need to be re-integrated with evolution science for both fields to advance at the proper clip. The structure of the volume explores that idea in an innovative way. The volume paired up teams of evolutionists and behavioral scientists around a specific topic relevant to the relationship of these two approaches. Authors were given a broad topic such as “learning” or “language and symbolic communication” and were asked to select a specific focus for their paper within that topical area in any way they saw fit. Teams were selected because of their prominence in evolutionary perspectives or in contextual behavioral science perspectives. There was no restriction of the specific approaches or issues, and in fact, each team was ignorant of the other team’s work until their chapter was completely written. Each side then read each other’s chapter and held a recorded conversation, moderated by the editors of the volume, about their similarities and differences. That is what these film clips contain. The transcript of these conversations was then edited down to a compact dialogue that follows each pair of chapters in the volume.
This extraordinary arrangement allows the reader to see each field as the experts do and then to see the experts searching for avenues of re-integration. Because there was little attempt to restrict the approach taken to a large topic area, even the very issues chosen for explication provided a kind of assessment of the degree of overlap and integration that already existed. This volume is designed to be equally accessible to both communities, with the reader having a front-row seat witnessing a historical reintegration – one that is taking place among the experts in real-time through their essays and conversations.
As editors, we tried to highlight this process more than to dictate its form. We did, however, consider the importance of studying behavior in the context of everyday life, where the behavior actually takes place, in selecting teams and topics. Both fields agree on this emphasis at the level of assumptions, but not necessarily at the level of research strategy. Evolutionary approaches take the view that species can only ultimately be understood in relation to past and present environments. That is why field studies figure so prominently and why most evolutionists insist that laboratory research must be informed by field studies to avoid the risk of being uninterpretable. Because contextual behavioral science takes prediction and influence to be its key truth criteria, they agree that laboratory studies need to be read with a grain of salt until they are applied to the study of human behavioral and cultural diversity in the context of real-world problems. For these reasons we deliberately selected teams that took context and human impact seriously, in either of these two forms. As human-related evolutionary research begins to place the same emphasis on field studies as research on other species, then the idea of doing basic and applied research in parallel nests nicely into that overall approach, facilitating another point of connection between ES and CBS.
Thus, this volume is a snapshot of an ongoing conversation with a clear trajectory: the reintegration of evolution science and a functional contextual approach to the study of behavior. We are happy to share the excitement that we have felt about the integration of ES and CBS with a larger audience in the pages of this groundbreaking volume.