Thought Leaders 016 -Dr. E. Scott Geller -Part 2

This month on Operant Innovations - Thought Leaders, we are back with Dr. E. Scott Geller as he answers the questions "Where do you see the field going?" and/or "Where would he like to see the field go?"

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Shauna Costello (00:00):

You're listening to Operant Innovations, a podcast brought to you by ABA Technologies. This month on thought leaders we're back with Dr. Scott Geller, as he answers the questions where do you see the field going and/or where would he like to see the field go? I think that that really brings up kind of our next questions as well because right now you're talking about expanding this into other areas, and throughout all of this, you know, you've been talking about expanding and how can we expand and how can we really implement? Like how can we really make changes for larger groups of people? So where do you potentially see the field going? Like, where do you currently see the field going? Or where would you like to see the field go?

Dr. Scott Geller (00:58):

Well, you know, Shauna, I have always felt that the field is more narrow than it needs to be, remember back in 1990, I was asked to edit the editor of JABA because Brian Iwata and John Bailey realized that we need to expand the field. And they realized that my behavior, my research was expanding the field. And I still feel that way. I mean, I think we have answers. We have strategies to improve human welfare. Now I might stay, let me give you a website, Geller. I've written several books. Here's one most recent one on parenting. How to be a more effective parent. And I've co-authored. My coauthor is Angela Fournier, who's a Ph.D. student of mine, and now she's a professor and we have one for schools. And each of these books, they're written for a different audience, of course, but each of these books shows off basic principles of humanistic behaviors.

Dr. Scott Geller (02:11):

I mean the principle number one, employing more positive consequences. And we all know that we know that. And principle number two, recognize the power of observational learning. We know that, but we have to teach the world that. How about this one? Use supportive and corrective feedback effectively. Can I just say something about that? We know how to give supportive feedback. We don't use it enough. People do not get enough appreciation. They don't get enough gratitude, by the way, that brings in another field of psychology called positive psychology, which relates to what we've been talking about. Positive psychologists have shown that gratitude is powerful. Why don't we do it more? Of course that's a positive consequence. Okay. So, so we think this connection between positive psychology and humanistic behaviorism needs to be broader. We need to get out to the world because we know how to improve behavior.

Shauna Costello (03:16):

And I know that's something that I've really tried to have been focusing on myself. And when I was sat down and asked, what is your everyone kind of has a focus when you come into your field, what is yours? Andat first, when I entered the field, I thought it, I was so interested in doing, in working in schools and I got to work in schools. I got to work in clinics. I got to work in home. I got to do community consulting and then I realized I want to make a bigger change. And so I actually found out that my focus is dissemination. And one way I do that is with the jobs that I have and also as the supervisor to students. And so I try to impact the next generation coming up as well, not only the general public, but one thing that I think that a lot of behavior analysts could potentially could help with is kind of what's going on in the world.

Shauna Costello (04:33):

And I know that you and I have talked about this before, but you mentioned it earlier as well, when you talked about how we're writing, the language we're using, and who we're trying to reach. And one thing that you mentioned you're not a fan of social media. But it has to do with that marketing aspect again. And that's a big thing going on in the world right now is when you go on social media, you can a hundred percent see where individuals are getting their knowledge and their resources from. And I think that that's potentially a way that behavior analysts could try and help spread to actively care for people on how we can do that and how you can more effectively gain knowledge and where you can get that from and even translating it because the best I could, the a lot of times, the best I could do is offer to share journal articles, but it's like, I don't have any of these other resources to be like, yeah, look at this magazine or look at this, or look at that. So I still think there's a lot that behavior analysts could do, especially with some of these social behaviors that are becoming more and more prevalent in the world that we're in right now.

Dr. Scott Geller (06:02):

Absolutely. And I want to say that you can change your focus. Well, for me, my purpose was essentially to make a difference, as I said in my story. Okay. But the way I chose to do it certainly changed. I learned for me, it was not cognitive psychology, for me it wasn't just teaching at a university and of course that is for me, very, has been very important, but for me it's been bigger. How do I get to the work? I love the word dissemination. We're nothing. If we don't disseminate what we know, and it's also continuous learning and continuously evolving. And I might say I'm almost 80 years old. And so I don't, I don't have that much time left. And so on. What's going through my head is Stephen Covey said, this, what will they say at your funeral? Meaning what will be your legacy?

Dr. Scott Geller (06:58):

What will you do before you go, what will you have done to make the world a better place before you leave this place? And we behavior scientists, again, I let me just say something behavioral analysis I know that's the history, but let's face it, you do more than analyze behavior. You analyze, you interpret, and then you improve behavior. And the word science fits in the real world more than the world analysis. So I think the world would accept and listen to a behavioral scientist more than a behavior analyst though. I remember telling John Bailey this 20 years ago, I said, John, I said, we really are behavioral scientists, I think we ought to move from behavioral analysis to behavioral science. And he looked at me and he said, Scott, you're right, but it hurts. And it hurts because we have this history. So let's, I'm not change, you can still call your organization the same, but when you're out in the real world, call yourself a scientist, man. That's what you are. And you're here to apply science, behavioral science, to make the world a better place, in various areas and we have to, as I said, we have to go to that area, whether it's safety or, or health or whatever, go to that area and learn what those people need to know about what we know to make the world a better place.

Shauna Costello (08:40):

Well, and that's something too, that from our past conversations, I have been trying to get better at using behavioral science as well. And the behavioral scientist and things along those lines, because even from the handful of conversations, we had that in how you described it to me as like, you're right, you are completely right. And I was one of those people probably before I met and started talking with you that I was like, no, I am, I'm a behavior analyst. I'm a behavior analyst. I was adamant about it. And then, but I really tried to take it upon myself to listen to other perspectives. And I was like, no, you know what, that you are, right. I don't need to be so dead set on somebody calling me a behavior analyst and the language that we're using, because we can like, like you said, even, even in this, you said we can still follow all of our principles, but make it more applicable.

Dr. Scott Geller (09:50):

And we could use the behavior analysis among our colleagues. Of course, we can still call it ABA and all that. But when we're out talking to the real world, what do you call yourself? And when they say, what are you, do? You do behavioral science, you apply the technology of behavioral science and make the world a better place. Again we discriminate that is we talk differently depending upon who we're talking to and so that's really the point. And again, language can make a difference. You don't say change behavior. We say improve behavior. I asked my students in class, how many say I have to go to class, it's a requirement rather than I get to go to class it's an opportunity. And did you wake up to an alarm clock or an opportunity clock? Again, our language can make a difference.

Dr. Scott Geller (10:53):

Again, the word consequence, that's a turnoff got to give you a consequence. Of course, I must say I'm using that, but I call it a positive consequence. I gave a podcast not too long ago. And, and in fact I actually was on a morning show this morning at seven o'clock this morning. And I used the word consequence and the host said, that's an oxymoron. Isn't it? Positive consequence. That's an oxymoron because he didn't think of a consequence as being positive. So that's something else we have to teach the world and teach the world to use more positive consequences than negative consequences.

Shauna Costello (11:37):

Yeah. And it's really funny even thinking about that and how our terminology is used. There's so many times in courses that our professors are taking videos from TV shows or this or that, and showing misuse of our language. And it's like, I feel like sometimes we should take that as a hint that it's confusing to the general public. So I think that that's a really good takeaway and a really good idea and way to look at the future of behavior analysis is really the language that we're using.

Dr. Scott Geller (12:23):

Shauna, take the word punishment. We know that that's misused all the time. It's not punishment unless it decreases the behavior it follows. So I must say that I correct that, I don't like the hear people, misuse language that reflects our technology. Again, positive reinforcement is misused, the word punishment is misused. So I do think it's appropriate to teach people the proper use of the technology. Even when we're talking in the real world, but I break it down as a positive consequence or a negative consequence. Are you a success seeker? Do you work to gain a positive consequence or are you a failure avoider working to avoid an adverseive consequence? And you're going to say, well, it depends. And that's true. Sometimes you're one sometimes in the other, and here's our challenge folks, how do we set it up? So people are more likely to be a success seeker than a failure avoider. Now that's language we don't typically use, but we can relate that the public can relate. That's what I will use more positive consequences because we want success seekers rather than failure avoiders and we have the science to back up that, that terminology.

Shauna Costello (13:44):

And is there anything else, like if you could just tell any, cause a lot of the people who are listening to the Operant Innovations podcast are between the ages of 18 and 35 is typically where the majority are. Is there anything else that you would like to tell them when they're thinking of the future and how they can really start looking and seeing what or where they want their effect on the world to be.

Dr. Scott Geller (14:15):

Wow, well, first be flexible. You know, don't get caught up in a narrow perspective, be flexible and never stop learning, read, read what's out there and maybe you'll check out some of these books that take behavioral science to the real world. And I also want to thank you, Shauna, gratitude is so important and dissemination is so important. And the fact that you're taking your time to put us folks on this podcast to spread the word, to teach the world. So, in a sense, you are our agent of change, our agent of improvement, and wow, thank you very much. And maybe that's another final thing to say is all of us should really recognize the power of gratitude. When's the last time you called up your mom or your dad or your grandparents or your child, and you thank them, sincerely for what they do for you.

Dr. Scott Geller (15:21):

And again, I'm not, I'm talking positive psychology, but it relates, you know, Marty Seligman the guy who started positive psychology. He does not know much about behavioral science. So I've taken on myself to try to teach you a little bit of behavioral science, because we're all in this together. There's another point, we need to be more interdependent, especially these days with COVID-19 we need to be more interdependent. We wear this mask for example, and we wear this mask, not for me, it's more for you. And I find it very disappointing that some people do not see that. So there's our job folks. Let's teach people the value of actively caring for people and how our behavior can influence actively caring. And this is an activity caring behavior putting on this mask and let's teach people that let's become teachers of applied behavioral science. And again, Shauna, thank you cause I do appreciate this, if it wasn't for folks like you getting the word out, I'd be stuck in this ivory tower, going nowhere, getting nowhere with this information. So thank you.

Shauna Costello (16:41):

Well, and I will also end on saying thank you because just as an example of an upcoming project that you and I are working on, I sent an email probably last week or so, and I was like, I'm here to bug you again. And your response was, Oh, you're not bugging me. And so thank you so much for just all of your responsiveness and your excitement to be a part of really getting all of this information out there because none of us, like you said, we need to be more interdependent because we can't do it alone.

Dr. Scott Geller (17:20):

Yes. And we need to be humble enough to expect and accept feedback from others. And we need to be, have the courage enough to give people feedback. And then we have to have the integrity to adjust our behavior, given that feedback. And of course, we're going on and on. And I shouldn't do that. Thank you, Shauna. You very much. Thank you.

Shauna Costello (17:43):

Thank you for listening to this episode of thought leaders. And as always, if you have questions, comments, feedback, or suggestions, please feel free to reach out to us at

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