Thursday, August 28, 2014

The Science of Consequences Wins an Award!

I'm delighted to announce that The Science of Consequences has won the Media Award to be presented at the annual meeting of the Association for Behavior Analysis International, which is at the San Antonio Convention Center next May.  I will be giving an acceptance speech at the opening Awards Ceremony on Saturday, May 24.  Usually, several thousand are in attendance at that session--so this will be by far my largest audience yet.  Five thousand typically attend the four-day conference.

As I noted in the book, "Behavior analysis has become the name for the academic field specializing in the basic and applied sciences of consequences per se as its core specialty area."  The Association for Behavior Analysis is the largest scientific organization devoted to this important field, and I am honored that my book has been chosen for recognition.  The organization has about 20,000 members and affiliates worldwide.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

End of Main Book Tour

After 100--count 'em--book events over the 20 months since The Science of Consequences came out, I'm getting a bit of a break.  Similarly, after over 60 blog posts--2 to 4 per month for those 20 months--I'm also taking a break. 

I didn't know what to expect when I undertook a book tour, and I never would have guessed that I'd end up crisscrossing the entire United States several times, giving talks.  What an adventure!  And it will continue, but at a less strenuous pace.  In fact, my Scandinavian tour this spring was successful enough that I've been invited back in September to speak at an anniversary celebration.  (Watch my website for details.)  And I have several additional events already scheduled.

As for this blog, I will still post occasionally, and of course the site will stay open for your perusal of past posts.  For those interested in more, I will be continuing my Facebook book posts.  As a bonus, you'll also get to admire the odd photo of my garden, like this shot of my California Fuchsias.  :-)

Thank you, everyone, for your interest in The Science of Consequences

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

The Science of Consequences Heads for the Far North

Oslo (public domain)
I'm about to embark on my first overseas book tour, and I couldn't be more excited.  Norway and Sweden will be hosting me for five talks and a one-day seminar.  I'm looking forward to meeting friends and colleagues there and doing some exploring--and birding, of course.

Stockholm City Hall (public domain)
 When I was a youngster, I used to read children's books and National Geographic children's magazines about the lives of people in nations around the world, marveling at how different they were.  It seems likely that may have been useful in helping me develop some skill at perspective-taking.  Any thoughts on other methods that help?  Plenty of consequences are involved, of course--including the improved basis for communication and interaction that comes with successful perspective-taking.

Meanwhile, I find that since The Science of Consequences was published a year and a half ago, I have done over eighty book tour events--talks, book signings, and interviews.  It doesn't seem possible!

Friday, April 4, 2014

Ken Ramirez on the Benefits of Animal Training

I'm still catching up after my East Coast book tour, so I thought I'd link you to another great post by animal expert Mary Hunter, who blogs at  (I've linked to her posts before.)

In this one, Mary describes a free one-hour youtube video from the Chicago Humanities Festival by biologist Ken Ramirez, a highly-respected expert in positive reinforcement-based training.  I'm fortunate to have met Ken several times now at conferences.  In The Science of Consequences, I have this to say about him:  "Talking about the move to positives, Ken Ramirez, vice president of Chicago’s Shedd Aquarium, won’t even let his trainers say 'No.' If they use reprimands, he says, they will eventually overdo it."

This one-hour video covers how training helps animals--including some benefits you probably haven't thought of--and what it's told us about animal capabilities and intelligence.  As Mary comments in her review, one of many important points Ken makes is that training is actually essential for the quality of life of most of our pets, as well as for many zoo animals.  And it helps in conservation as well (as I mention in my book).

Here's the link to Mary's blog post.  And here's the link to Ken's youtube video.  Enjoy!

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

On the Road in the Research Triangle

Carolina Wren (public domain)
I'm on the road again!  After several events in the New York City area, I'm about to give a talk at the Durham East Regional library in central North Carolina. Then it's on to the University of North Carolina-Wilmington, for a public Psychology Colloquium on Thursday at 3:30.  Finally, I keynote the East Coast edition--in Norfolk, Virginia--of the same program of unique ClickerExpo presentations and practica I blogged about at the end of January. 

Meanwhile, it's been years since I was in the Big Apple, and I was delighted at how helpful most New Yorkers were.  If I even looked a bit lost (which happened several times in Penn Station, believe me), or appeared to be struggling with my suitcase in the subway, people came forward to help.  Will the Tar Heelers be as welcoming?  I'm sure they will, and that their warmth, like that of the New Yorkers, will help compensate for the cold temperatures of this supposedly spring visit.  Snow flurries this morning, yikes!  But the fruit trees and daffodils are flowering and the birds are singing--including the properly located Carolina Wrens (actually widespread) and, a treat for me these days, richly red Northern Cardinals.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Aubrey Daniels on Creativity in Business

Well-known management consultant Aubrey Daniels was kind enough to provide back-cover advance praise for my book.  He's also better than I am at reliably maintaining a helpful blog--in his case, about how the science of consequences can help businesses, managers, and employees alike.

In a recent post, he discussed workplace creativity and how to encourage it, touching on everything from the invention of the microwave oven to the problems of bureaucracy.  I love this quote:  "As a matter of fact everybody is creative every day." Daniels' eight suggestions for businesses are well worth a look--and sometimes counterintuitive.  (No suggestion box?)  See the entire blog post at this link.  
As a matter of fact everybody is creative every day. - See more at:
As a matter of fact everybody is creative every day. - See more at:
As a matter of fact everybody is creative every day. - See more at:

Friday, February 28, 2014

William Least Heat Moon on the Smoked Cisco

I keynoted a conference in snowy Michigan last week, back near the Great Lakes of my youth in Chicago.  While my family frequently explored the Great Lakes region, somehow I missed out on smoked ciscoes, a local favorite that's the main incentive in a story by William Least Heat Moon that I read recently.  Some of you may remember that I cited his classic book Blue Highways several times in The Science of Consequences, and his 2013 collection Here, There, Elsewhere: Stories from the Road is also worth a look.

In one of these stories, Least Heat Moon reminisces about the delightful smoked Lake Superior ciscoes he enjoyed as a child.  (That's a small commercial fish.)  You can't go back again . . . right?  Although it took some doing, when he finally tracked them down, they were as good as he remembered:  "Their sweet delectability made finishing one almost a regret; even having a dozen others iced down, enough for several more lunches and dinners, didn’t relieve my sense of impending cisco deprivation" (p. 282).  Talk about a trip down memory lane . . . and a positive reinforcer enhanced by its rarity.  The schedule of reinforcement and the nostalgic associations both influence the value, not that I doubt Least Heat Moon's objectivity.  Anyway, that was hardly the purpose of this quest!

Least Heat Moon's difficulty in finding this delicacy had me concerned about its sustainability--look at the collapse of the Grand Banks cod fishery that I wrote about in TSOC, and all the threats to so many fisheries around the world.  But in Lake Superior, anyway, it appears that this small species, while not as abundant as it used to be, is holding its own (source, Minnesota Sea Grant).  I'll be back in Minnesota this summer for a conference.  Wonder if I can find a smoked cisco in the Twin Cities . . .

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Consequences, Public Health, and the Boiling of Water: Bringing Change

When I was in training overseas in the Peace Corps, I came down with a very unpleasant digestive infection because I'd drunk unboiled water.  I was not alone.  While all the trainees knew we were supposed to take this extra step, others got caught out too.  The problem was the social consequences:  Even though the local families we lived with were wonderful and would have accommodated us, they themselves did not always boil the water before drinking it.  After a while, it simply became hard to ask.  (Not after we got sick, though!  Consequences . . .)

That experience made it easier for me to understand a classic example of the challenges in disseminating evidence-based practices, from Everett Rogers' classic Diffusion of Innovations.

Decades ago, rural folk in a particular South American village typically did not boil their water, and a number were periodically coming down with infections as a result.  All of the local water sources were contaminated.  For these low-income people, the extra effort and fuel involved in boiling was one barrier, but not insuperable.  So this seemed on the surface a great opportunity for public health officials to offer assistance, and a local health worker tried to convince the villagers to change.  Doable, right? 

The villagers' lack of scientific knowledge was one of the challenges.  The existence of invisible microbes was news to them, and let's face it, the idea that living things far too small to see can make you sick is not an obvious one. It took many years until this fact was demonstrated and accepted in Western science.  But the upshot was that traditional village rules about when water should and should not be boiled amounted to longstanding albeit unscientific taboos.  The delays between drinking contaminated water and getting sick did not help, given all the other possible sources of sickness, and of course people frequently drank the water without becoming ill.  The consequences simply were not clear.

Of about 200 families in the village, special efforts were made with 21.  Of these, 11 did start boiling regularly--but that was after two years of effort.  How very frustrating, and how sad to think of the unnecessary suffering.

Modeling can have very large effects on behavior and consequence value:  Getting respected village leaders on your side means a huge advantage in supporting change.  But that's easier said than done.  Rogers analyzed why a few of the villagers did switch:  One woman was already a social outsider, so she had little to lose from the disapproval of others. Another adopter was a social insider more subject to peer pressure, but her medical conditions made it traditionally acceptable for her to boil.

More broadly, of course the power of community social norms and traditional knowledge was and is significant.  So how best to disseminate evidence-based "best practice"--and make changes like boiling water sufficiently reinforcing?  We're still working on that, but we've made significant progress.  Certainly the importance of treating contaminated water is noncontroversial now in most places in the world.  Change seldom comes overnight, and it takes work.  Knowing something about the science of consequences can help.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Positive Reinforcement for Animals

I just got back from keynoting a unique conference on a unique venue.  (Yes, "on.")  ClickerExpo is all about positive reinforcement-based animal training, for animals of all sorts, but with a focus on dogs.  It was founded by Karen Pryor, whose wonderful books I refer to--let's see--a dozen times in The Science of Consequences.  This year, the West Coast edition of Expo took place on the Queen Mary, the historic ocean liner now permanently docked at Long Beach.  Zowee!  Clicks, by the way, are "marker" sounds, part of the communication system for learning a new behavior.

In honor of this event, I want to highlight one of the links on my website:   This library offers lots of useful information about positive reinforcement for animals, and in an entertaining style.  My "Links" page also connects to several other resources for animal training and enrichment, and there are dozens more excellent ones out there.  Animal lovers, enjoy!