Research Seminar: The Behavioural Science of ProSocial World Part I

Wednesday, May 17th 6pm ET

ProSocial Research

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1.5 hour Free Research Seminar and Q&A

Part 1: Understanding Language and Thought - Creating Contexts for Behaviour Change

Abstract: How can we create contexts that support people in being more cooperative? This question is at the heart of ProSocial World’s mission. Prosocial is built upon a pragmatic, contextualistic approach to behaviour change that is inspired by evolutionary theory. These two talks are intended to be an introduction to what this means, and why understanding the relational nature of the inner world is so important for designing effective behavioural change programs. In Part 1 of this two-part series, Paul and Robert introduce the basics of a behavioural approach. Behaviour includes private events like thinking and feeling; and changing behaviour means influencing the antecedents and consequences of behaviour. We describe how Relational Frame Theory gives us a way of understanding language and thought so that we can have a naturalistic science of the mind without dualism. We argue that a broader understanding of these ideas is, in and of itself, transformational. Shifting from a mechanistic view of the world to a more relational view opens up the possibility that we are all in this together. Furthermore, this way of understanding helps us to better take the perspective of others, self-regulate our emotions and act in ways that are more effective for creating what really matters to us all. In Part 2 of the series, on May 31st @ 6 p.m. (ET), Robert and Paul will explore Robert's PhD dissertation exploring how the ways people talk about themselves can be used to predict wellbeing, psychological flexibility, and the quality of relationships. This work highlights the importance of "rule-governed behaviour" for understanding human cooperation and wellbeing. We argue that this approach provides a functional contetualist perspective on the idea of a symbotype. Self-rules and collective rules can be seen as units of meaning that shape how well we are able to collaborate with each other. And understanding the science of our self- and other- rules can give us ways of conceptualising what is going on in, and improving, groups we care about. The methods we have employed are a new approach to analysing natural language to predict and potentially influence the behaviour and well-being of individuals and groups. We conclude by discussion the social implications of this work in relation to Ostrom's idea of a syntax of institutional grammar.

About the Speaker:

Paul Atkins is a facilitator, author and researcher. He is co-founder of Prosocial World, a not for profit focused on conscious evolution to enhance cooperation and trust in mission driven groups globally. Paul is a Visiting Professor with the Crawford School of Public Policy, Australian National University as well as a member of the board of the World Happiness Foundation. Paul's research has focused on using behavioural science to enhance relationships, wellbeing, perspective taking and cooperation in groups and organizations. He has published extensively on mindfulness in organizations, coaching, compassion and social identity. He is lead author of  the book “Prosocial: Using Evolutionary Science to Build Productive, Equitable, and Collaborative Groups” and the developer of the original suite of ProSocial training offerings.