save the world with behavior analysis

How a Convergence Cured "Writer's Block"


I have not had the motivation nor the desire to write for the last month.  Nothing changed in my life to set up this change in behavior, but I guess I encountered that condition that many go through--"Writer's Block."  Ultimately, I replicated the results from Dennis Upper's groundbreaking 1974 study "The Unsuccessful Self-Treatment of a Case of Writer's Block (Upper, 1974)."

With that said, during this month's time, I was able to experience "The Convergence of Human Training, Animal Training and Technology," in Seattle.  This conference gave me a lot to learn in the two days of inspiring and motivating speakers, and I have pages of notes, of which I'm sure will translate to multiple blog posts in the coming weeks.  I learned about  the accomplishments behavior analysis produces when applied to multiple populations, species, and industries through the use of clicker training, shaping, positive reinforcement, virtual reality, machine learning, and data analysis.  

In providing a space for all of these sectors to mix and discuss our science, for the first time we began to see that maybe we can indeed "Save the World with Behavior Analysis."




Upper, D. (1974). The unsuccessful self-treatment of a case of “writer’s block.” Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis7(3), 497.

Shaping the Use of Renewable Energy Resources through Applied Behavior Analysis


As promised in the previous blog post, we will be exploring cultural change as it relates to behavior analysis in the next few weeks.  With this week's celebration of Earth Day, we are exploring ways to increase the use of sustainable resources.

Ultimately, as behavior analysts, we are tasked with the job of using our science to shape socially significant behavior (Baer, Wolf & Risley, 1968).  So what is the definition of socially significant behavior?  Cooper, Heron, and Heward (2007) define this as "Behaviors identified for change must be socially significant to the persons and contribute to the quality of their daily life."  In essence, the definition of social significance lies with the person.

This definition is a bit tricky when we talk about "saving the world" with behavior analysis as Skinner talked about in his works.  For most Americans (and I say most...not all, and I am fully admitting to myself being part of the "most"), socially significant behavior which contributes to the quality of daily life, involves the consumption of goods, most of which are consumed or are produced through non-sustainable energy resources such as oil or natural gas.

So how do we fix this?  As with most behavioral change we should start with small changes.  The biggest change we can make in our lives is to start reducing our use of the nonrenewable energy resources we currently are using.  Some simple ideas to start would be: turn off the lights when the sun comes up, unplug the electronic devices when you leave the house, and spend a few more days with your windows open instead of using air conditioning in the summer.  

As a whole, we should also look to investing and exploring affordable sustainable energy resources such as use of wind and  solar options for energy.  Though for many this can be cost prohibitive, companies should start to explore the current barriers cited for use of this and turn it in to new business ventures.  

Motivation and the availability of reinforcement for engaging in these behaviors, also plays a role, in implementation of behavior change.  Like with any behavior support plan, we should create a larger cultural behavioral support plan to change our behavior of consumption of non-sustainable energy.  We need to essentially make it harder to access non-sustainable energy, and easier to access renewable energy resources, provide realistic incentives for use of these energy resources (that tax credit isn't cutting it), and also look to making it more socially reinforcing to use these resources, instead of gas and oil.

Have an idea on how to do this?  Leave a comment below!



Baer, D. M., Wolf, M. M., & Risley, T. R. (1968). Some current dimensions of applied behavior analysis. Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis, 1(1), 91-97

 Cooper, John O., Heron, Timothy E., Heward, William L.. (2007) Applied behavior analysis,  Upper Saddle River, N.J. : Pearson/Merrill-Prentice Hall