Actively Caring for Our Country

Guest Blogger: Mackenzie Davis

50 lessons to enrich your life book coverWhat does it mean to Actively Care 4 People (AC4P), and how do we implement such rhetoric into our daily lives? Scott Geller’s 50 Lessons to Enrich Your Life not only highlights the foundation of the AC4P Movement but also walks you through ways to live an AC4P life. The fundamentals come from psychological science, although the real testament is in the actions of people. Geller combines applied behavioral science (ABS) with humanism into a sub-discipline of psychological science called humanistic behaviorism, which is exemplified by the use of empathy when giving corrective feedback to improve behavior. While humanistic behaviorism is broad, many principles and concepts connect to the AC4P Movement. 

It is important to think of relevant others with every decision you make, which is why the COACH method of giving interpersonal feedback is so valuable. We must first Care about the health, safety, and welfare of others, Observe target behavior and its context, Analyze the environmental determinants of the behavior, Communicate with behavior-based feedback, which leads to Helping an individual improve. Each of the 50 life lessons is accompanied by creative discussion questions and detailed graphics to help readers operationalize a particular life lesson. The discussion questions prompt the reader to reflect on real-life situations and consider more positive and constructive ways of handling their day-to-day situations. 

Geller teaches other behavioral models, including the ABC model of ABS, which helps the reader understand how activators (antecedent events) influence behavior and consequences. These Scott Geller Headshotresearch-based principles blend together in a cohesive way, all continuing to further explain human behavior. Intrinsic and extrinsic consequences are huge motivators because they announce the availability of personal choices, power, and control. When leaders use these to activate the perceptions surrounding behavior, it becomes contingency management. Incentives implicate consequences because they announce the availability of positive consequences. Skinner stated this motivation principle very simply as “selection by consequence.” People choose their behavior for the positive consequences they expect to receive or the negative consequences they hope to avoid. 

Furthermore, the distinction between an intrinsic and extrinsic consequence is always relevant. Are you motivated by consequences inherent or intrinsic to the task or by extra consequences external or extrinsic to the task? Success seekers are working to achieve a goal, whereas failure avoiders are striving to dodge an unwanted consequence. In this case, both involve extrinsic consequences. You can look at any situation with either intention; it just depends on your mindset. That said, the power of reciprocity is integral to recognition. Your intentions, mindset, and behaviors all affect the people around you, and therefore it is necessary to consider all possible consequences before every action. It is quite obvious that uplifting others and living with an AC4P mindset is a way to facilitate a more positive society overall. 

This AC4P Movement is important to the entire world, but particularly in the United States of America. The past few years have created a win/lose Expressing Gratitudeculture in America, and it is time to work hard to bring citizens back together. Actively Caring for People can be as simple as expressing gratitude to professors and waving to cars that stop for you as a pedestrian, but most importantly, it means fighting for the rights of anyone and everyone. We must care for others as if they were family. You might not be a person of color, a member of the LGBTQ+ community, a woman, an immigrant, or a member of any other minority group, but I guarantee you know someone who is. 

The principle of conformity is a defining factor for the actions of many people in this country. Most do not like to admit that they were influenced by this social influence principle, but everyone is a conformist in some way or another. In this case, AC4P conformity goes beyond trends and social media but instead influences acts of kindness for others. This is why implementing caring and positivity into our daily actions could have magnificent effects on the surrounding people. We are divided because it seems more common these days to commit an act of negativity or conflict than it is to be inclusive and supportive. Relatedly, Professor Geller accurately calls attention to the fact that the Golden Rule we are all taught to follow is flawed. Instead of treating others like you want to be treated, we should treat others like they want to be treated. 

A person looking over a city skyline as the sun is heading towards the skyline

As a systems thinker, you see the bigger picture and recognize that a personal favor can go beyond the person receiving your AC4P behavior. This means that as an observer of prosocial behavior, you recognize that it is a key to positive progression. With all of the social concepts discussed, there is mainly just one call to action. Consistency is the driving factor of the AC4P Movement. A lack of consistency leads individuals to experience cognitive dissonance, or a state of conflicting values, beliefs, and/or behaviors. We must decide to show gratitude, to offer respect, and to treat others the way they want to be treated. In turn, others will return the favor and continue the chain of continuous AC4P attitudes and behaviors. 



E. Scott Geller, Ph.D., is an Alumni Distinguished Professor in the Department of Psychology at Virginia Tech. For 47 years, Professor Geller has taught and conducted research as a faculty member and Director of the Center for Applied Behavior Systems in the Department of Psychology. He has authored, edited, or co-authored 36 books, 82 book chapters, 39 training programs, 259 magazine articles, and more than 300 research articles addressing the development and evaluation of behavior change interventions to improve quality of life on a large-scale. Each of the articles in this issue reflects this mission of applied behavioral science, as does his most recent book: “Applied Psychology: Actively Caring for People.”


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