Blog post written by Scott Geller, Editor and Co-Author
Some have suggested B. F. Skinner was a dreamer, authoring the book Walden II about a utopian society in which everyone lives ideal interdependent lives (Skinner, 1948). I have also been called a dreamer by many in the behavioral science community because of the 4.5 decades of behavioral science interventions implemented by my students and me to improve public health, safety, and well-being on a large scale. This research is showcased in the book reviewed here.
The textbook, Applied Psychology: Actively caring for people, published by the esteemed Cambridge University Press, offers an innovative perspective of applied psychology—real-world applications of behavioral science and select principles of humanism, termed humanistic behaviorism. It features a wide range of applied research focusing on community-based interventions, applications in schools, families, organizations, hospitals and sports teams, all designed to enhance general human welfare and well-being in particular contexts.
I am the editor and sole author of seven chapters, and co-author of five others with former graduate students. Eight other chapters are authored by professionals with extensive experience addressing the topic of their chapter.
One of the most crucial aspects for readers: This book teaches the basic building blocks of applied behavioral science in a reader-friendly style, and provides practical evidence-based strategies for improving behavior and attitude in many domains of everyday life – from organizational leadership and sports coaching to education, parenting, and healthcare. Due to its wide range of appealing topics for college students and the public at large, we hope this book becomes a staple in many classrooms and a centerpiece for a multitude of personal collections.
As a book suitable for high-school freshman and beyond, this book weaves creative stories with interactive examples to portray the value of ABS and humanistic behaviorism for the general public. To further the reader’s comprehension and appreciation of the material, many inventive and amusing cartoons are included throughout the text to demonstrate critical concepts and applications. Plus, my co-authors (totaling 31) and I describe the technological nuances of ABS without using confusing and esoteric technical jargon.
In fact, our presentation of a particularly palatable version of ABS and humanistic behaviorism is one of the most important contributions of this textbook. Not only can this book be readily appreciated by individuals with advanced expertise in ABS, it can also be comprehended by readers unfamiliar with the principles and applications of ABS. Actually, this book was designed to spread key lessons from ABS and humanistic behaviorism to a broad audience through real-world examples and practical applications.
Thus, the co-authors and I believe this book is a must read for behavioral scientists, parents, teachers, students, and coaches interested in improving their routine interpersonal communication and intervention skills, as well as anyone fascinated to learn about effective behavior-based practices to improve quality of daily life.
A total of 20 chapters and more than 700 pages cover a plethora of unique domains. Any practical book for an audience of unknown expertise should begin with a foundation of knowledge necessary to understand the fundamental principles and functional applications. Hence, the initial chapters in Applied Psychology explain the core concepts that appear throughout the book in various application contexts. The first two chapters lay the groundwork for the connection between ABS, humanism, and the Actively Caring for People (AC4P) Movement, which was initiated by my students and me in 2007 after a gunman took the lives of 32 students and faculty, and injured 17 others at our University–Virginia Tech. The importance of behavior-based intervention and the use of positive consequences to motivate behavior is introduced in Chapter 1 and appears in each application chapter, including the behavioral science of effective teaching, coaching, healthcare, safe driving, healthy eating, and sustainability, and the prevention of alcohol abuse, obesity, interpersonal bullying, and vehicle crashes.
Connections are made between many different domains of behavior-based research and the AC4P Movement. Readers learn the relevance of the overall approach–humanistic behaviorism–as the paradigm for cultivating an AC4P culture of interpersonal trust, empathy, and compassion. Readers also learn evidence-based connections between AC4P and self-motivation, moral courage, interpersonal communication, social-influence principles, positive psychology, and transformational leadership.
To improve readability, this book is separated into two distinct sections. As reviewed above, the first section sets a research-based foundation for the second part of the text that illustrates practical applications of the AC4P principles, or humanistic behaviorism. Here is where the importance of the AC4P principles are realized and appreciated. This section details how behavior-based AC4P principles can be used to benefit human dynamics in a number of critical domains: occupational safety, organizational culture, traffic safety, alcohol abuse, health- care, parenting, teaching, coaching, and environmental sustainability.