AC4P with Dr. Scott Geller 013 | Positive Psychology & Behavioral Science Part 2

So, did you do the homework from last episode? Here's a recap:

Can you operationally define PERMA? How could you use this in your personal and professional life? Can you incorporate Emotional Intelligence into your practices? Do these practices fit within our scope of practice and ethical code?

Well, go ahead and give Dr. Scott Geller a listen. We may have an amazing science at the tips of our fingers, but we need to continuously learn from other fields.


For more lessons from Dr. Geller, consider buying his 50 Lessons book.


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Dr. Scott Geller (00:23):

Let's go even further, let's talk about emotional intelligence. That's let's go back to 1972. When Walter Mischel set up the following study, he gave a four-year-old child, a marshmallow sitting at a table individually, and he put a marshmallow on that table and he said, here's a marshmallow. You can have it now, immediate consequence. Right. And as we know, one of Skinner's favorite quotes that I like is immediate consequences are more powerful than delayed consequences. Okay. So here's the child. However, if you wait, I got to run an errand. If you wait, I will give you two. So the challenge is, will the child, the four-year-old wait for the extra marshmallow, by the way, folks, Google marshmallow test, and you will see actual film of kids waiting for that marshmallow. And by the way, you'll see how tempted they are. They pick little pieces off the marshmallow.

Dr. Scott Geller (01:29):

Some of them wait, some of them who wait don't just stare at the marshmallow. They cover their eyes. They have strategies to handle that delay. And it could that's part of the behavioral side. Can we teach people emotional IQ again? So by the way, here's, what's powerful about that study 1972, he followed those kids 14 years when they were graduating from high school. And guess what? Those kids who waited for the extra marshmallow, their grades were higher. They scored this and this blows me away. They scored an average of 200 points higher on their SATs, the standard achievement test. So again, and by the way, as I tell you this story, you're probably saying, of course, success in our society is about delaying soon for the bigger delay. But again, it's, emblazed that sounds counter to behavioral science. Cause we, you know, it's soon certain positive consequences, but it's not really contrary because again, if we wait for the bigger prize at the end, by the way, that's an operational definition of, of EEQ emotional intelligence.

Shauna Costello (02:52):

Well, and that, and like you just mentioned too, that kind of brings up Skinner's quote, on those immediate consequences. And I know this was something that reminded you of as well.

Dr. Scott Geller (03:03):

Yeah. Well, as you say, we know Skinner's one of my heroes, and his selection by consequences is his legacy to us major legacy. And he also said that we're more concerned about consequences for ourselves than for consequences for others. And you know that's not wrong, except it's getting back to gratitude again. Let's get back to giving others. It's kind of amazing when I'm reading Seligman's book on flourish, he actually talks about the value of helping others. He talks about altruism. He talks about the top of Maslow's hierarchy. Self-Transcendence he doesn't say it that way. It's kind of interesting how these fit. We have our behavioral science Silo. We have our positive psychology silo and we have a humanistic silo. And what I like to consider is bringing them together because I think positive psychology is an integration of humanism, behaviorism, and the principles of positive psychology.

Dr. Scott Geller (04:16):

Another term, by the way, that Seligman talks about is mental toughness, mental toughness, or resilience. And you've all heard those terms before, but we can connect that to emotional intelligence. We can connect that to EQ. It takes mental toughness, for example, to resist that, that extra food or the extra pleasure in order to have a possible longer-term benefit. You know, I've been in the field of safety for gosh, over 40 years and trying to get people to be safe, even from wearing a safety belt in their car and to now, to wearing a mask, to prevent COVID. But think about it. We're asking people to be inconvenienced sometimes relatively uncomfortable in order that they might just might not get injured. I mean, the probability of an injury is small anyway. So really EQ connects directly to safety, safety promotion. To be safe means I'm doing some things right now, the immediate consequence could be discomfort, inconvenience. I have to go and get the extra step ladder, get the personal protective equipment, and wear it an inconvenience. Why for the possibility that I could avoid an injury that's EQ.

Shauna Costello (05:51):

Well, and that brings up a question too because I think surrounding a lot of social issues that are going on as well. And when we talk about altruism and things like that in a lot of the studies that we're seeing are from, like you even said, like back when the marshmallow test was first coming out or four-year-olds well, what about adults? We need to start with, probably need to start them when they're young, but what about adults? And you know, that whole thing of can an old dog learn new tricks and how, you know, how has that something, you know, can we go about doing that and like increasing this emotional IQ with, you know, for adults who are past that four-year-old stage.

Dr. Scott Geller (06:40):

Shauna, that is a brilliant and important question. I believe that life is a continual process of learning and teaching. I mean, yes, I'm an old dog, man. I'm an old dog, but I want to learn. In fact, that's what keeps me going. That keeps me going, what can I learn? And what research can I do to possibly learn something new and then teach people what we've learned? So you got data. You want people to know about that data. That's why I so appreciate these programs that you're doing because the data means nothing if we don't disseminate it if we don't teach people what the value is here. So absolutely an EQ is run through our lives. Well, this, we are an obese society. Are we not? We are a society, generally, we're overweight. Why are we overweight? In many cases, we lack the EQ to put that dessert aside, to eat less at that meal, also to exercise. Exercise for many of us is not fun. It's something we know we need to do for our health. Well, I suggest that takes emotional intelligence. I mean, that takes some cognition to say that I need to do this in order that in the long run, I'll be better.

Shauna Costello (08:06):

Well, and that kind of ties back into the PERMA stuff and what we were talking about, especially with engagement and things along those lines, with the intrinsic versus extrinsic motivations, and even potentially teaching people how to use motivation, whether it's, you know, extrinsic and transferring it into more of an intrinsic motivator and things along those lines as well. So, I mean, this connects straight back to, you know, not only behavior analysis and how using the science of human behavior, we can help establish those different motivating operations, but it also connects right into the positive psychology that you were talking about as well.

Dr. Scott Geller (08:55):

Absolutely. You think of eating as engagement and the food is intrinsically reinforcing. It's a natural reinforcer. And sometimes we have to use extra or extrinsic reinforcers. We could call them positive consequences. They're not reinforcers unless they really influence the behavior, but we hope to influence the behavior so as to delay. So behavioral scientists will use interventions to help people delay that soon, certain destructive consequences that they're doing in the safety world. For example, we implement interventions to help people be inconvenienced, help people do this safe behavior from wearing a safety belt to wearing personal protective equipment, to wearing a face mask. You know, sometimes it takes extrinsic extra. And of course, who knows better how to do that than a behavioral scientist. And we also know something else. We have to fade away the extrinsic consequence and perhaps enable the intrinsic consequences to take over. And we can't deny the fact that sometimes it's how we talk to ourselves. Sometimes it is covert behavior and we teach people how to talk to themselves to become more emotionally intelligent.

Shauna Costello (10:26):

And I can see a lot of the things that you're doing with, you know, at Virginia Tech, with the AC4P interventions that you're putting into place just with those students, how applicable those could be too, I mean, universities, businesses, companies all over that could end up teaching some of these behaviors and getting them built into the repertoire of young adults to adults. And then hopefully ultimately, maybe even increasing that emotional intelligence of more individuals.

Dr. Scott Geller (11:06):

You know, if you think about it, and I've been thinking about this for a long time, what if we can get people to realize the positive intrinsic consequence of helping others, how it makes us feel good. Again, Abraham Maslow called it self-Transcendence, going beyond yourself for somebody else. What if we could use our science to get more of that happening? And then of course we get intrinsic consequences. I mean, helping others feels good, just like Seligman says that gratitude feels good. And by the way, writing a letter, a gratitude letter, and delivering that letter, that's one of the techniques that Marty Seligman published to demonstrate the power of positive psychology. Well, what we're saying here is AC4P actively caring for people makes us feel good. What if here's our challenge? Let's get more people to experience. Self-Transcendence to experience actively caring for people, not just caring, we all care. Acting, that's the behavioral science of it all acting on that caring. What if we get more people to do that again, in our simple study, we just got more people to show gratitude either to a professor or to a vehicle that stops, and that was out there in the community, but that's just the beginning. There's so much more where we can take our science, our technology and connect it to positive psychology. I might tell you, that reading the books on positive psychology, that's something that they don't do. That the people study in positive psychology, they just try to understand, which is good, the positive side, what makes people happy? Now we come along behavioral scientists and we say, okay, so let's, let's increase those behaviors, the frequency of those behaviors that increase happiness. What an integration then of behavioral science with positive psychology.

Shauna Costello (13:18):

And it's so neat because this is something that I see a lot of questions about on social media or things along those lines. Like, what else can behavior scientists do? What can we do besides autism? And it's like, there's so much you can do. And this is just one aspect of it is yeah we have the books, we have the materials that we've studied, but that doesn't mean that we aren't very closely related to other fields and we can't go read their books and figure out what they're doing and start working with them. We've done it with a lot of fields already. So, you know, it's why not do it with this as well.

Dr. Scott Geller (14:09):

You know, I started my career back in 1969, 1970. And what was I doing? I was trying to get people to pick up litter, getting people, to recycle, getting people, to do some positive things for the environment. Now, in those days, I didn't even understand, I didn't even know positive psychology. I mean, Seligman came along later, but all of a sudden it's all coming together. But I must tell you that back in the seventies, my colleagues didn't get it. You know what, Geller, that's not even psychology. He's out there counting litter. He's counting recycling. I mean, that's not psychology. So we have really brought in now, by the way, we started calling that behavioral psychology, working in a community to get people, to do positive things for their environment and now for human welfare. And so that really grew into a larger process, you know, and so really I'm proud of that. Of course, now we're called calling it actively caring. You can actively care for other people, but you can also actively care for the environment.

Shauna Costello (15:20):

Which I think is actively caring for people. I feel.

Dr. Scott Geller (15:24):


Shauna Costello (15:24):

If you wrap it all together. So is there anything else that you want to get across with positive psychology, emotional intelligence, anything like that?

Dr. Scott Geller (15:39):

Well, we can end by saying I thought they were going to be two separate shows, you know, one on EQ and one on positive psychology, but Shauna you brought them together and it really does make sense. And I like to think about that. Let me end on this. I think positive psychology is a synergistic integration of behaviorism and humanism. I mean, I really believe in humanistic behaviorism, and maybe we'll talk more about that, but I believe that as Skinner once said behaviorism can make humanism more effective. I'm claiming that humanism, empathy thinking of how people are feeling, and doing humanism can make behaviorism more effective.

Shauna Costello (16:36):

Yeah. And I'd have to agree with you just with all of the talks that we've had and what I've been learning from you is there's so much that behaviorism can take from other fields and also contribute to other fields.

Dr. Scott Geller (16:55):

And by the way, let's understand what radical behaviorism means. Radical is not methodological behaviors, radical behaviorism is beyond Watson, Skinner. Radical behavior is believed that there is mental, that there is cognition, that there is emotional intelligence. They just want to be sure they can define it operationally in terms of behaviors. So in fact, it's radical because it does not deny cognitions. That's what makes it radical. But some people misunderstand it. They oh, radical means I only care about behavior and nothing else. And that's not the case radical simply means. Yeah, I agree that we do think, we do feel, we are positive, we are negative, we have perceptions and we need to figure out a way to bring that into our science.

Shauna Costello (17:49):

And I also think that that relates back to what you're talking about with like humanistic behaviorism and also positive psychology because there are these, there are different behavioral interventions that we can put into place, like how we work with training covert behaviors. So they become overt and things along those lines as well. So it's that same thing with that. Self-Talk, you've talked about self-talk before and how you approach things, and how you talk about things. And that is that transference in which, from covert to over or over to covert, depending on how you do it as well.

Dr. Scott Geller (18:36):

You can act people into thinking differently or you can think people into acting differently.

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