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As so many of us take pause after hearing the news of the Boston tragedy, we look for ways to process the events, for the right way to talk with our children, and ways to keep ourselves calm and courageous at a time when it’s easy to be fearful. For me, I thought back to something I wrote in Other Peoples Habits, “…be the person who begins a chain reaction of change in your environment.” This quote is in reference to the power of learning and applying the laws of human behavior and bringing it and the appropriate use of positive reinforcement into your environment. Skinner also summarizes the benefits such a strategy would have if practiced on a global scale in his book, Beyond Freedom and Dignity: It’s hard to imagine a world in which people live together without quarreling, maintain themselves by producing the food, shelter and clothing they need, enjoy themselves and contribute to the enjoyment of others in art, music, literature and games, consume only a reasonable part of the resources of the world and add as little as possible to its pollution, bear no more children than can be raised decently, continue to explore the world around them and discover better ways to deal with it, and come to know themselves accurately and therefore manage themselves effectively. Yet all this is possible. I agree with Skinner. I believe that most of the world’s problems, from crime and drugs to ineffective education and the threats to world peace, result from a lack of understanding of how consequences change behavior. We can find hope in a science that has enormous power and I hope we all can begin our own positive chain of change in our own worlds.
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