In this final discussion, it was striking how different the perspectives were between evolutionary science and contextual behavioral science, even though both were tasked with the same general topic. Both offered excellent insights and both were evolutionary, and yet were very different. This means that a lot of work is required to integrate them with each other. Another observation is that contextual behavioral science is oriented toward the need to change. It could well be the case that ninety percent of individuals function just fine; their personalities and learning mechanisms got them to a good place—so we don’t think much about them! We think about the minority of people who are not functioning well. In that context, inflexibility is bad by definition and the need to change is good. That’s the main space within which contextual behavioral scientists operate. A second observation, and kickoff for more discussion, is that contextual behavioral scientists, in their treatment both of Skinnerian processes and of the special effects of language—more or less assume a universal human nature and don’t say much about personality. This is something that can be studied in nonhuman species. Once we realize that nonhuman species have profound individual differences, we can ask what it means for their learning processes. Presumably, all personalities are capable of learning, but perhaps in different ways that we should be taking into account if we’re going to accomplish change. To what extent do contextual behavioral scientists actually take this into account when working with people? Maybe implicitly there’s an understanding that people are different in ways that are not likely to change (their inflexibility), which can inform how they can be helped to change (their flexibility).
Published On: April 7, 2021
David Sloan Wilson is SUNY Distinguished Professor of Biology and Anthropology at Binghamton University. He applies evolutionary theory to all aspects of humanity in addition to the rest of life, both in his own research and as director of EvoS, a unique campus-wide evolutionary studies program that recently received NSF funding to expand into a nationwide consortium. His books include Darwin’s Cathedral: Evolution, Religion, and the Nature of Society, Evolution for Everyone: How Darwin’s Theory Can Change the Way We Think About Our Lives, and The Neighborhood Project: Using Evolution to Improve My City, One Block at a Time and Does Altruism Exist? Culture, Genes, and the Welfare of Others. .
Steven C. Hayes is Nevada Foundation Professor in the Behavior Analysis program at the Department of Psychology at the University of Nevada. An author of 46 books and over 650 scientific articles, his career has focused on an analysis of the nature of human language and cognition and the application of this to the understanding and alleviation of human suffering. He is the developer of Relational Frame Theory, an account of human higher cognition, and has guided its extension to Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT), a popular evidence-based form of psychotherapy that uses mindfulness, acceptance, and values-based methods. Dr. Hayes has been President of several scientific societies including Division 25 of the APA, the Association for Behavioral and Cognitive Therapies, and the Association for Contextual Behavioral Science. He was the first Secretary-Treasurer of the Association for Psychological Science, which he helped form and has served a 5-year term on the National Advisory Council for Drug Abuse in the National Institutes of Health. In 1992 he was listed by the Institute for Scientific Information as the 30th “highest impact” psychologist in the world and Google Scholar data ranks him among the top ~1,100 most cited scholars in all areas of study, living and dead (http://www.webometrics.info/
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