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Steven C. Hayes

Foundation Professor
Department of Psychology
University of Nevada

Symbolic Behavior, Behavioral Psychology, and the Clinical Importance of Evolution Science

Monday, January 31, 2011
Science I 149, 5:00 PM

Abstract

Evolutionists have recognized the importance of the symbolic domain to an account of human behavior but in the absence of a technically adequate and evolutionarily sensible account have miscast its nature. In this paper I argue that modern behavioral psychology contains such an account, Relational Frame Theory (RFT), which defines symbolic behavior in a precise and innovative way and provides experimental data on how it develops and why it matters. The applied importance of a contextual, selectivist account of symbolic behavior is explored in a discussion of a clinical extension of RFT, Acceptance and Commitment Therapy. I argue that acceptance, mindfulness, and values provide an evolutionarily sensible guide to the development of cooperation within people and between people that comports with what we know about symbolic behavior.

Biography

Steven C. Hayes is Nevada Foundation Professor at the Department of Psychology at the University of Nevada. An author of 32 books and more than 430 scientific articles, his popular book “Get Out of Your Mind and Into Your Life” was featured in Time Magazine among several other major media outlets and for a time was the number one best selling self-help book in the United States. Dr. Hayes has been President of several scientific societies and has received several national awards, such as the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Association for Behavioral and Cognitive Therapy.

Assigned Reading

  • Vilardaga, R., & Hayes, S. C. (in press). A contextual behavioral approach to pathological altruism. In B. Oakley, A. Knafo, G. Madhavan, & D. S. Wilson (Ed.) Pathological altruism. New York: Oxford University Press. [PDF]

Additional Readings

  • Hayes, S. C., Levin, M., Plumb, J., Boulanger, J., & Pistorello, J. (in press). Acceptance and Commitment Therapy and contextual behavioral science: Examining the progress of a distinctive model of behavioral and cognitive therapy. Behavior Therapy. [PDF]

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Poster (PDF):