Actively Caring for Your Child with Dr. Scott Geller

It was a pleasure to connect with Dr. Scott Geller, a 53 year faculty member and distinguished professor at Virginia Tech. Dr. Geller and I are aligned with our values when it comes to positivity and caring, and using the science of ABA to impact not just those with autism but anyone.

Actively Caring For People

AC4P is a movement founded by Dr. Geller in 2007, after the tragedy of the April 16th university shooting at Virginia Tech. The idea is to put the humanistic character of caring into action. Dr. Geller explains STEP an acronym for sharing positivity with the AC4P wristbands. S: See an act of kindness, T: Thank them, E: Enter the wristband into the AC4P website (tracking its unique number), and P: Pass on the wristband again repeating the cycle. Actively Caring for People is a movement with customizations for police, parents, children, teachers, and more, all united by the 7 Principles of Actively Caring. 

The 7 Principles of Actively Caring 

  1. Employ More Positive Consequences
  2. If you Want to Learn Something, Watch Someone Performing The Task
  3. Improve with Behavioral Feedback
  4. Use More Supportive Than Corrective Feedback
  5. Embrace and Practice Empathy
  6. Manage Behavior and Lead People
  7. Progress From Self-actualization to Self Transference

Dr. Scott Geller is working towards disseminating this really important and valuable information that will benefit everyone. Join us in creating a legacy to have the science of Applied Behavior Analysis change the world and lives of many. 

Actively Caring for Your Child with Dr. Scott Geller

Dr. Scott Geller on Turn Autism Around Podcast

E. Scott Geller, Ph.D., an Alumni Distinguished Professor at Virginia Tech, has completed 53 years as a faculty member and Director of the Center for Applied Behavior Systems in the Department of Psychology at Virginia Tech. He is co-founder and Senior Partner of Safety Performance Solutions, Inc., a leading-edge training and consulting organization specializing in behavior-based safety since 1995 ( He is co-founder of GellerAC4P, a training/consulting firm dedicated to teaching and spreading the Actively Caring for People (AC4P) Movement worldwide (

He has authored, edited or co-authored 52 books, 91 book chapters, 41 training manuals, 277 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. His most recent 700-page textbook, with 31 coauthors: Applied Psychology: Actively Caring for People defines Dr. Geller’s research, teaching, and scholarship career at Virginia Tech, which epitomizes the VT logo: Ut Prosim—”That I May Serve”.

Scott Geller’s dedication, talent, and energy helped him earn a teaching award in 1982 from the American Psychological Association and every university-wide teaching award offered at Virginia Tech. Moreover, in 2001 Virginia Tech awarded Dr. Geller the University Alumni Award for Excellence in Research. In 2002, the University honored him with the Alumni Outreach Award for his exemplary real-world applications of behavioral science and in 2003, he received the University Alumni Award for Graduate Student Advising. In 2005, he was awarded the statewide Virginia Outstanding Faculty Award by the State Council of Higher Education, and Virginia Tech honored him with the title of Alumni Distinguished Professor.

Dr. Geller is a Fellow of the American Psychological Association, the Association for Psychological Science, the Association of Behavior Analysis International, and the World Academy of Productivity and Quality Sciences. He is past Editor of the Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis (1989-1992) and Associate Editor of Environment and Behavior (1982-2017), and current Consulting Editor for Behavior and Social Issues, the Journal of Organizational Behavior Management, and the Journal of Safety Research.

Dr. Geller has received lifetime achievement awards from the International Organizational Behavior Management Network (in 2008) and the American Psychological Foundation (in 2009). In 2019, the American Psychological Association honored Scott Geller with the Nathan H. Azrin Distinguished Contributions to Applied Behavior Analysis Award.


  • What is the Actively Caring for People movement?
  • The 7 principles of Actively Caring.
  • The broad application of ABA and positive psychology.
  • How Applied Behavior Science can benefit people of all circumstances.
  • A positive outlook on changing and bettering behavior.
  • A system for caring you can apply today!
Want to get started on the right path and start making a difference for your child or client with autism? SIGN-UP FOR DR. MARY BARBERA'S FREE TRAINING


Dr. Scott Geller – Turn Autism Around Podcast Transcript

Transcript for Podcast Episode: 229

Actively Caring for Your Child with Dr. Scott Geller

Hosted by: Mary Barbera

Guest: Dr. Scott Geller

Mary: You're listening to The Turn Autism Around Podcast Episode number 229. Today I have a very special guest, Dr. Scott Geller, who has a Ph.D. He's an alumni distinguished professor, has completed 53 years as a teacher and a researcher in the Department of Psychology at Virginia Tech, and he is just a wealth of information. He has spent over five decades trying to get the principles of positive psychology, the principles of a movement he started called Actively Caring 4 People movement. It's been trying to get these procedures out to the world. A lot of the procedures you hear me talking about on my podcast and my courses in my books about using 8 positives to every negative and those kinds of principles. But he has such a wealth of information and so many examples. Love this episode. Let's get to this great interview with Dr. Scott Geller.

Intro: Welcome to the Turn Autism Around podcast for both parents and professionals in the autism world who want to turn things around, be less stressed and lead happier lives. And now your host, Autism mom, behavior analyst and bestselling author, Dr. Mary Barbera.

Mary: Alright, Scott, thank you so much for joining us today. I'm excited.

Dr. Scott: Thank you, Mary. What a pleasure to be here. It's all about dissemination. We have to teach people how to apply these principles.

Mary: Yeah. Yeah. So before we get to the principles and the movement that you're a big part of, and I know you're not specifically in the autism world, describe your fall into the world of ABA, positive psychology, whatever you fell into and where you're at now.

Dr. Scott Geller on the Turn Autism Around Podcast

Dr. Scott: Well, I'm a professor of psychology at Virginia Tech, and this is my 54th year here. I started in 1969, and back then I learned applied behavior analysis back at Anna State Hospital with Ted Ayllon and Nate Azrin, and that's why I learned this stuff. I was in the Department of Psychology and at SIU in Carbondale, and I just happened to visit Anna State Hospital. And so I was hired at Virginia Tech to be a cognitive psychologist, and I did my dissertation in cognitive psychology. But then it hit me, We're not making a difference with cognitive psychology. We're not helping people change their behavior and change others to do the right thing. So I visited Anna State Hospital, saw what they were doing, and the first thing I did at Virginia Tech was take some of these basic principles of applied behavior analysis. By the way, I call it Applied Behavioral science. Took those principles to increase environmental responsible behavior. How do we influence people to recycle? To reuse? To do the right thing for the environment? That was back in 1969. That's how I started and then slowly moved on. I became editor of Jaba, which is a journal of Applied Behavior analysis in 1979 for three years. So the bottom line is I really got involved in this process of using science to make a difference in our world from the home with children to the real world, with changing the environment, getting people to do the right thing for the environment, for example.

Mary: And I'm kind of happy to hear that you're so broad and you didn't get just in the developmental disability world. But I can't imagine as editor of Jaba and having all this experience in psych hospitals and stuff that you didn't. How much experience did you have with developmental disabilities and children with autism, if any?

Dr. Scott: None. Zero. My degree was not in clinical psychology. My degree was in cognitive psychology. And then I learned. And then again and when I became editor of Jaba, what I wanted to do is make you have to be broader than just developmental disabilities. So I focused on how we use behavior analysis to improve driving, how we use it in industry to make people do the right thing for safety and health. So the bottom line is I use the same principles. Whether we apply them to autism, we apply them in schools or whatever. The basic principles are the same. It's the application?

Mary: Wow, that's great. Before we hit record, you know, I told you that I have a master's degree in nursing administration, and before I became a mom and became a behavior analyst, I when I was a nurse, I did research in the nursing field and on things like because I was nursing administration, on things like nursing retention, time management, shift to shift report. I didn't know what ABA was. I didn't know what organizational behavior management, which is a part of ABA, was. But I used the science of ABA or ABS before I even knew what it was. And the other thing I want to say is that a lot of people credit the whole field of ABA as starting with the article about the psychiatric nurse. And I would love to hear it because I'm a little fuzzy on the details of that, but I'm sure being in that, you know, around that time, I'm sure you're very familiar with it. We can link that in the show notes here for podcast 229. But can you tell us about that article, like the title of it,?

Dr. Scott: Who were the authors of What Are We Talking about? What article?

Mary: Psychiatric nurse as behavioral engineer. You're not familiar with it?

Dr. Scott: No. Well, I heard. I know the name. I wonder if this was. I mean, how about a token economy written by Nate Azrin and Ted Ayllon? I mean, using tokens to manage the behavior in an institution. It's very similar, is it not? It's using these principles to improve behavior.

Mary: Right. I almost feel like that article was in the Psych Hospital where Ted Ayllon and those people were. So we read a link that that article in the show notes and we can link you to the article about token economy too. But I think it's a good point to remember that ABA and behavioral science was not created for kids with autism. And it's largely like all behavior analysts know in a lot of situations now, especially the thousands and thousands of people that have been board certified since, you know, 2000.

Dr. Scott: In fact, that's a very important point. Some people see it as a very narrow kind of science, but it is very broad. In fact, I don't like the term analysis. We don't only analyze behavior, we intervene to improve behavior. So I prefer the term applied behavioral science now, where, say, for example, I spent years taking those principles into the real world, into the workplace, to keep people safe. And we've reduced fatalities and injuries using these same basic principles. So I hear you. We need to sometimes realize that these principles can be applied in many situations.

Mary: Yeah, well, and you have a wealth of background in broad science for sure. So I see behind you and I have done a little research and you have the actively caring movement for people movement. Can you tell our listeners when that started? What that's about is that you founded it. What is it?

Actively Caring 4 People Movement

Dr. Scott: Well, let's start with the term actively caring so that many of us care. We hear of a shooting, we hear of a tragedy and we care. But do we do something about it? And that's why we came up with the word actively caring. Notice that active behavior, caring is often linked to humanism. So I believe the academic term, what we're talking about is humanistic behaviorism. That's not a new term. It was really rather popular in the seventies, but it kind of fell off. So now back to the movement. We had a tragedy at Virginia Tech. April 16th, 2007. There was a shooting. One student killed 32 faculty and students. And, of course, I was here at the time. And after that tragedy, the caring was amazing. People were calling me up. I've got literally hundreds of emails saying, Are you okay? Because people were concerned. And then we realized, okay, that's wonderful that we care, but how are we going to prevent it from happening again? We have to do something now, something proactively before the tragedy happens again now. By the way, back then, a shooting like that was unusual. These days, it's all ho hum. Another shooting. So if yes, if we could only get these concepts out to the real world. So we started a movement, the Actively Caring 4 People movement, A C 4 P, The number for that is a website called Actively Caring 4 People.And at that website you can buy a wristband. And the wristband says Actively Caring 4 People. And when you see an act of kindness, the idea is you pass this on to thank them. In fact, it can be summarized as STEP, step S, see an act of kindness. T Thank them for that. We don't have enough support or feedback out there. We pick on the mistakes that people make. We give corrective feedback, but we don't give enough supportive feedback. So here we go, see an act of kindness and thank them. And then E e means enter this. Each wristband, by the way, has its own identification number. So you go to the website, AC4P, and you enter the act of kindness. The idea is to spread some positive gossip or changes that have all this negative stuff going on. Or in fact, I wonder if the school shooting is partly observational learning. It's become part of our culture to bring out a gun and shoot somebody. So and by the way, and then the P of step, you pass on this wristband. So once you give it to somebody, you pass it on to somebody else and it keeps going. And by the way, I'm wearing a blue wristband. Police officers in three states wear blue wristbands. And we've written a book for police officers. They do the same thing, except it's blue. It's called Actively Caring 4 People Policing. And they can go to their website and do the same thing that we do with our website. So, again, it's something the world needs. We need to give more positive consequences for the good things we do. You heard this. If you see something, say something. People see something all the time. How about saying some positive things about the good things that people do? So that's our movement. And if you go to that website, you'll see thousands of stories, not enough for people, but people have done this. And I give them to my students at the university and I'm still here and I talk about this movement because we've got to spread it. Dissemination is key and thank you for letting me say something about it, because maybe some of your listeners would like to get involved. Everybody can get involved. Just do it.

Mary: Yeah, I do have a couple of podcasts that I've done in the past, one with a police officer, a captain who has a son with autism. So we can link that. And then I also did a podcast interview with Bridget Taylor who's a pretty renowned behavior analyst, and she did some work on being more humanistic and being more caring as a behavior analyst we can link those to in the show notes. We'll also link the Actively Caring 4 People website so that you can look at that. And you did say that you have a book on policing, and I know you have several books. When did this movement start?

Dr. Scott: 2007. When I started to write books. I had it for parents, it's the same basic principles. But it's custom for parents, we have for police officers, for schools. We have a book for schools to reduce the violence and the conflict going on in schools. But my point is the same basic concepts that are the foundation.

Mary: We talked about the seven principles of the active Caring for People movement. And you just held up a book actively caring for children. Is that what it says?

Dr. Scott: Actively caring for your child. It's how to be a more effective parent.

The 7 Principles of AC4P

Mary: Yeah. And this has nothing to do with autism. My toddler preschooler course, for instance, has half the participants who don't have a child with a diagnosis of autism. They have speech delays. They have concerns. Maybe there are long waiting lists. But the same exact procedures work beautifully with typically developing kids. I just interviewed for last week's podcast, interviewed Kyle Jones-Sherman, and she said she uses the shoebox program and all the techniques for her eight month old grandchild and the five year old grandchild who are typically developing. So I really resonate with, you know, all that you stand for, that these basic procedures need to be disseminated. As principles. So let's go over the seven principles of the Actively Caring 4 People movement that literally could help a child, help a family, help the police department, help schools, help teachers, help behavior analysts. So I'm going to read each principle and then you can say anything you want about it. So the first principle is to Employ More Positive Consequences.

Dr. Scott: Now, isn't that just something that's so obvious? Your common sense says that, but we don't do it. In fact, we teach supportive feedback as a way to make people feel competent. And when you feel competent at something worthwhile, you're more likely to be self-motivated. That's a powerful term. Self-motivated researchers have demonstrated that if you feel confident now, how do you help a person feel competent? Supportive feedback, focus on the positive. The best way to eliminate undesirable behavior is to pay attention to desirable behavior. With the focus there, we have. I've published articles on reducing violence and conflict in schools. And you know how we did it. We simply had the teacher. Ask the students what they've done to help another person. What positive things have put the focus on helping others rather than bullying others? So we've reduced bullying by simply turning around and focusing on the positive side.

Mary: Yeah, and I've done a ton of work on the work of Dr. Glenn Latham, who wrote Positive Parenting back in 1994 or 97, and then Behind the Schoolhouse Door: Eight Skills Every Teacher Needs in my new Train the T program. We are diving deep into those principles. We can link the Behind the Schoolhouse Door right here for free, and a lot of his work is just focusing on the positives and eight positives to every negative. This has nothing to do with autism. If you go to pick a daycare or a school program and classroom, A has a bunch of negatives, stop that. We're going to lose recess. Not you know, I'm going to take a jump rope away. You're not standing. You're not sitting criss-cross applesauce. You're touching your neighbor. Stop that. Negative, negative, negative, negative. You go to the classroom B, and I like the way you shared this. Thumbs up. There are smiles. There's everybody just having a pleasant time. You're going to it's just common sense. Like you said, you're going to pick classroom B, you're going to pick work environment B, you're going to pick a job interview that is more positive. This is nothing to do with autism, but so much to do with changing behavior. We want to spend 95% of our time preventing problem behaviors everybody wants. Like, what should I do? My child is on the floor. Well, by the time your child is on the floor, we're in a no win situation. We need to get the child up and safe. Yes. And then we need to spend 95% of our time making sure that dropping to the floor doesn't become part of his, you know, ritual daily or weekly, because we really need to focus on safety. So I love the whole more positive consequences that are very much in line with what I do.

Dr. Scott: But when we see a negative consequence, it sticks out, the child's on the floor. We have to pay attention to that. But when the child is not on the floor doing the right thing focused on something else, we let it alone. We don't. That doesn't. And we need to learn to support that stuff that we see that we appreciate.

Mary: Yeah, and Glen Latham also did some research back in the seventies that showed that kids in special education got 15 negatives to every positive. And so a lot of times when you if you're a professional out there and you're doing independent evals or you have really tough kids, I would really recommend you sit back and take positive to negative data. And a lot of times you can turn things around by flipping that to more positives than negatives. All right. Let's move on to principle number two. We benefit from observational learning. If you Want to Learn Something, Watch Someone Performing The Task.

Dr. Scott: Isn't that I mean, talk about common sense. I mean, when I started at Virginia Tech, I didn't know how to teach effectively. What did I do? I got in the mail in my campus phone book and looked up all the faculty who had won teaching awards. And I called them up and I asked them, could I come to your class and sit in the back and watch you teach? I got, why would you want to do that? I teach biology. You're in psychology. I want to watch your techniques. I want to learn from you. You are an award winning teacher. The bottom line is we learn by watching others. Here's another thing to recognize. People see us do what we're doing, and when we're practicing the right thing, people see us. I mean, you've heard the term vicarious reinforcement or vicarious punishment means indirect, though, when we see somebody getting rewarded for doing the right thing. We're more likely to do the right thing also. So the idea is we need to demonstrate. We can just show people. Yes. And I sometimes wonder if some of the tragedies we're having today in our world is because people are watching through social media. They see this negative stuff and the negative stuff is getting all this public attention. I want attention. I want to be on Tik Tok with this anyway. So we need to turn that around.

Mary: Yeah, definitely. And just to take it down to like preschool or that you're trying to teach how to put their coat on. Let's watch a typically developing preschooler put their coat on and break down the steps and teach the steps. It's not just like fingers crossed. Hopefully that skill will be acquired. Of course you're going to want to look, I love the idea of going into, you know, very fluent, top award winning professors to see how to teach. I love that.

Mary: Hey there. I am breaking into this podcast episode just to make sure that you know about our digital assessment, which is still free and available. We have made major upgrades. You can get to the free assessment by going to Mary Barbara Adcom forward slash assessment. If you have 10 minutes as a parent or professional, you can get scores in three main areas. Self-care and daily activities is the first area. Language and learning skills is the second area and problem behaviors is the third area. We have already had more than 20,000 parents and professionals take the digital assessment. So if you haven't checked it out or it's been a while, we have made major improvements. Go check it out at Let's get back to the podcast now.

Mary: Principle number three: Improve with Behavioral Feedback.

Dr. Scott: Wow. You know, practice makes perfect. No, it doesn't. Practice makes permanence. If we're not getting feedback on how well we're doing, we'll just continue doing what we're doing. Matter of fact, we've studied coaches on this campus, wrestling coaches, for example, and we've observed them giving feedback. And what do we find? They give corrective feedback. They tell the athlete when they're doing wrong, but not necessarily specific enough. But when they do well, you know, they say good job. They don't tell them what they saw. That was notable, that was recognizable. So the point is feedback is critical. What am I doing? Well, I ask students, how am I doing? You're doing great, Doc. No, no. Specifically, what did I do well today? And where is there room for improvement? There's always room for improvement. Again, the point is, without feedback, we can't improve. And so. But do we have the courage to give feedback? Here's a term, by the way, that's floating around. It's old wine in a new bottle. Psychological safety. You heard that term Mary. Psychological safety. Do you have the kind of culture, even in your home, where everybody's willing to speak up and offer advice. Can you challenge the status quo? Can you give feedback? And again, that takes a particular kind of environment, an openness, a sense of trust and transparency. So it's easier said than done. But let's start with the point that we can't improve without feedback.

Mary: When you were talking about coaching, I thought of another podcast interview I did with Theresa McKeon from TAGTeach, which is marking good behavior when it's happening. We can link that in the show notes as well. The fourth one is pretty much related to all these others, Use More Supportive Than Corrective Feedback.

Dr. Scott: Absolutely. In that way, let's look at the letters of coach and see how it relates to all of this. Okay. First letter is a C care. Know that I care about your improvement. You'll care what I know and I care so much. The next letter. Observe, watch and give you feedback. And while I'm watching you, the A in coach, I'm analyzing, I'm looking around to see what consequences are influencing that behavior, whether it's right or wrong behavior, What's influencing behavior doesn't happen in a vacuum. As we all know, there were environmental consequences. So that's the Analyze. Now, after I analyze now, the next C, I communicate, I give the feedback. And again, as this lesson says, start with positive. You have more positive feedback when you give corrective feedback. This is challenging. Not so easy. You can't, that's wrong. That's a turnoff. You have to be. Here's the word humanistic. What I mean is ask more questions. Is there a better way to do that? Could that have been more safe? Again, get them to say, Yeah, I could have done better, Mom. I could have done this more safely, Supervisor. If they said you're getting their commitment. And so the bottom line. But I must tell you that that is the foundation of what we started back at Virginia Tech in 1979 called Behavior Based Safety. Having workers observe each other with a checklist of safe and at risk behaviors. And by the way, the next letter from coach H, help. If you do this process, you will help them. But what I wanted to say is it got big. Behavior based safety is worldwide. Except guess what they do. They leave that out. C, they don't communicate. They observe behavior. Put it on their computers. Now they can put up data percent safe versus index. So that is better than nothing. What that C part, the communication part, peer to peer communication, that takes some courage and that takes some lessons. And how do we do it? So that's the one weak link that's happened with behavior based safety as it's spread worldwide.

Mary: Yeah, that's great. Okay. Principle number five, Embrace and Practice Empathy.

Dr. Scott: Wow. Now we're humanistic, are we? If we only embrace empathy, what do we mean? I asked the other day. What is empathy? And his response was, Isn't that just sympathy? No, empathy is trying to see it from the other person's perspective. Imagine if we became more empathic, if we listened with empathy. Here's an example. What's the golden rule? Treat others the way they treat others, the way I want to be treated. That's the golden rule, right? What if the other person does not want to be treated the way you want to be treated? I suggest a platinum rule. Treat others the way they want to be treated. That takes empathy. I have to find out how you want to be treated? When I was in fifth grade, the teacher in front of the class recognized me for doing the best job on my homework. Would Scotty Geller please stand? I was very shy. Anyway, I stood up and she said, I want you all to give Scotty a hand, because his homework was the best. The kids beat me up in the playground. Well, I did not want public recognition? But we heard that slogan reprimand, privately recognized publicly. I mean, some of that pop psychology out there, that is absolutely wrong. So empathy gets to the bottom line here. How does the other person see it? Where are they coming from? So when we give feedback, be empathic about it.

Mary: Yeah, I love that. Love that. Okay. Lesson or principle number six, Manage Your Behavior and Lead People.

Dr. Scott: Oh, yeah. There's a difference between management and leadership. And by the way, we need both managers. Hold us accountable. Managers get their position assigned. We have a department head and they hold. She holds me accountable. That's fun. Parents hold their children accountable. Teachers hold their students accountable. That's management. That's management in the academic world. We call that transactional leadership. I just call it management. What's leadership? Leadership is different. And the first point to be made is everybody can be a leader. And I suggest what the leaders do. They inspire self-motivation. They inspire others to be self-motivated. And what do I mean? The researchers said it's self-motivation is influenced by three C words: choice, competence, community. What do I mean when I believe that I had some choice in the matter, I'm more likely to be self-motivated. Example: Suppose you have a child and you wanted to dress up for school in a particular outfit. One thing that parents could do is say we're wearing this today, son or daughter, whatever. How about this, though? These are two possible outfits for the day. Which one do you want to wear? Just some choice in the matter. So again, perceived choice. The second one is competence. And I said this earlier. When you believe you're competent at doing worthwhile work. I'm more motivated. How do we do that? We said this. Supportive feedback. And the third word is community. Now, the people who did the research, DC and Ryan, Ed DC, Richard Ryan, they did this research years to show that these three terms, they don't use the word community. They use the word relatedness, recognizing we're all in this together. Related: I like community because I can remember three C words. Now, when I say community, what do I mean? I mean interdependency. It should be the declaration of interdependence. Not independent. Not. I can do it myself. We're all in this together. I call it systems thinking, we all help each other. Here's the word synergy. You know what synergy means, the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. How do we make that happen? By having diverse people on our team working together. Interdependency. The whole will be greater than the sum of the parts. And again, the key is self-motivation. Holding ourselves accountable. And again, how can we make that happen? Giving people the perception. I say the perception of choice. I mean, you get right down to it, choice is a perception and then competence, believing that I'm good at this. And whatever age we're at, we like to believe we're competent at doing something worthwhile. How do we do that? Supportive feedback? And then again, a sense of synergy, a sense of community.

Mary: Yeah, I love that. And, you know, I've been in work environments where you feel like. You know, there's 50 behavior analysts or 50 workers. And if you don't have the right leader. It can get very catty and you feel like, Oh, I'm in the bad pile now, and those people are in the good pile. And, you know, I just created a PowerPoint and it's very much like black and white thinking, like, you're not all bad or all good. You're not high functioning or low functioning. You individually have your strengths, your needs, motivations, history. And so I believe that, you know, anybody can be trained if they're motivated to be trained and they're in the right system that gives you positive feedback. And once you start to see gains, whether that's in a child, a supervisor, a police department, the prisoners, you know, once you start to see change and progress, then it becomes a cycle of motivation to improve. And a lot of our systems, the criminal justice system, even the education system and the parenting system have decades of punishment built in.

Dr. Scott: And again, everybody could inspire somebody else to be self-motivated. And by the way, we can inspire ourselves to be self-motivated if we just reflect on our choices, our competence, and our sense of relatedness or community.

Mary: Yeah. Yeah. All right. The last principle here is Progress From Self-actualization to Self Transference. And in your article, which we can link in the show notes about this, you have Maslow's hierarchy. So is that related to that?

Dr. Scott: Yes. And by the way, everybody knows Maslow's hierarchy of needs. It's kind of interesting. And we say it would satisfy our biological needs that we climb this ladder and we satisfy safety and security. And then one more. We have our social needs and then we get to self esteem. I feel worthwhile. And then the top is self-actualization. When I talk to groups, I ask what's at the top of Maslow's hierarchy of needs, self-actualization. Guess what? No. Abraham Maslow passed away in 1970, and he said he was wrong. His last book was published by his wife, 1971, entitled The Farthest Reaches of Human Nature. And he said, The best you can be is not about yourself. The best you can be is to go beyond yourself or somebody else. Self-Transcendence. I also should say, though, that Maslow didn't like the hierarchy idea. It's not really. You can be hungry and still care for somebody else. I mean, you don't have to satisfy all his needs in order to get to the top. They all kind of work together, and that's the way he talked about it. But again, we like to simplify it here. We have this hierarchy, but we just recognize the fact that looking out for somebody else, helping somebody else, you know, in fact, feeding your pet, you know, that's going beyond yourself for something else. What if we just realized that? And by the way, talk to people who have done that, they're happy. Happiness happens when we see ourselves helping other people. And, of course, that relates to a whole other topic, positive psychology.

Mary: And we've, I know about positive psychology, but I wouldn't say I'm an expert. And so how would you relate positive psychology to applied behavior analysis and the actively caring movement like, whereas it is an umbrella term. Is it what?

Dr. Scott: That's a great question, Mary. That kind of brings it all together. If you think about it first , let me just say that Marty Seligman started this thing over 20 years ago called positive psychology. Here's his point. When you hear the word psychology, what do you think of as negative? Helping people who need help. You know, maybe you even think about applied behavior analysis. We're helping people who need help, where we're improving emotions, improving behavior. But what's the flip side? How can we help people be happier? What can we do to increase use? The word they use is subjective well-being. I feel better about myself. And guess what? The principles we've just gone over relate directly to improving subjective well-being. What's the first one? Improve more positive consequences. Use more positive consequences, and self-motivation and help people feel they're worthwhile. They're doing worthwhile work. That's happiness. Happiness. The word, by the way, they use in positive psychology is flow. Go with the flow. And we know what flow means in behavior analysis. We know that flow means you're receiving intrinsic reinforcers. And by the way, the real world thinks intrinsic is inside. No, intrinsic is a natural consequence. So intrinsic reinforcement leads to flow. Meaning I'm doing this thing and I'm enjoying this thing. In fact, I missed dinner because I was so involved in the flow of this meeting. I was getting natural consequences, natural, positive consequences for my work. So the bottom line is applied behavioral science probably knows more about positive psychology than many others. And one more thing I want to say. We've been doing work on how to increase positive psychology. Here's a simple one. Gratitude. How often do people say thank you? We talked about supportive feedback. Not only do you identify what you think, what you saw the person do well, but how about thanking them for it? Thank you for setting the right example. Gratitude is critical, research has shown. What do we give gratitude when we receive gratitude? We're happier. That increases our subjective well-being. So on this campus, for example, we've used behavioral science to increase getting gratitude. Example When students cross the road on market sidewalks, the question is do they thank the driver who has stopped for them? Believe it or not, it's very low, 7%, 7%. Again, we're in our own little world holding our Skitter box in our hand by our cell phone. But guess what? That's it. That's a skitter box. That's an operating chamber. We're pushing buttons. You get natural consequences. We don't even look around. We didn't even notice that this person stopped for me. So we set up. We put up signs at the crosswalk. Thank the driver with a wave. And indeed, we more than tripled the number of people who thanked him just by the way. Now we're studying modeling versus diffusion of responsibility. What do I mean? If the first person in line, thanks to the driver. Is it more or less likely that the second person will thank the driver? Guess what we found.

Mary: I would think more.

Dr. Scott: I was hoping for more. But instead, I don't have to thank the driver. That person did, so without diffusion of responsibility. Now, if I'm not the last person in line, I'm more likely to thank the driver because the driver waited for me to get there. But the bottom line is they did it. I don't have to do it. Diffusion of responsibility in social psychology, they talk about the bystander effect when someone needs help. What's the probability that any one individual will help this person? And the research says the more people watching this event, the less likely will any one person help that person because of diffusion? Somebody else could do it better than I. They'll do it. But if you are the only person and somebody needs help, you're more likely to help them.

Mary: Yeah. Wow. These are all such good principles and such good, you know, life lessons for everything. So you've been at this for over five decades. Why is this common sense, these common sense principles, why is it so hard to disseminate?

Dr. Scott: Wow. There's a magic word. And that's my frustration is dissemination. You know what us professors do? We do our research and we publish it in a journal that nobody reads. Oh, our own colleagues read it, and then we get tenure and we get promoted and so forth. But getting it out to the real world. Thank you, Mary, because that's what you do. You help us get out in the real world. We don't do enough of this, by the way. The consultants know how to do that. That's their whole business. But I never have. I need a marketer. We need marketers helping us get the word out. And again, that's what you do. And that's why.

Mary: I am a full time online marketer. Yes. And I've studied it and I'm continuing to study it. I'm a mastermind. As you know, I want to get these principles out to the world. And I'm very thankful for that. Amanda Kelly we were talking recently and she's going to be on the podcast again in a couple episodes. We were talking about happiness and positive psychology, and she's like, you need to connect with Scott Geller. I'm like, Great. I would love to have him on the podcast. So, you know, we're very much in line and I think, you know, everybody that's in the Actively Caring 4 People, movement, all of your students, all of the people that are in my courses and community, you know, we're all singing the same song and we just need to keep singing it louder to more people. And like, I love the wristband idea and, you know, we're going to have information in the show notes. But, you know, I really appreciate you coming on. So how can people reach you? Your website is.

Dr. Scott: One is or . com also works with a website where you can actually purchase wristbands. And we have it, by the way, we have in child sizes and adult sizes, you know, and they're available at the and that's where people report their stories. And again, so grateful we need this we need people to know about the movement and the and to take it on and spread it. Spread it around. You know, I'm up in age now, and I don't have that many years left. And I, I need to know that it's about legacy is it It is about passing it on. And I think life is all about teaching and learning. Learning. And teaching. And then, of course, teaching is dissemination. It's teaching others. One thing that keeps me going at Virginia Tech is I teach introductory psychology every semester, and I have 500 students in one class and 600 in another class hoping and some of these lessons that we teach. Will stick and they'll pass it on.

Mary: Yeah, well, I'm glad you talked about legacy, because when you were talking about self-actualization versus self transference and we were talking about self transference, I was thinking legacy, which you and I have that in common, that we really want to get the message out to the world in our lifetime. So I applaud you for being here. So the wrap up, I always end with the same question. So part of my podcast goals are not to just help the kids, but also help parents and professionals be less stressed and lead happier lives. And so what are your specific? I think the whole episode gives lots of gems, but what are your specific self-care and stress management tips that you use that you would recommend?

Dr. Scott: Well, the first thing is I distinguish between stress and distress. Stress is arousal. And I'm aroused. I'm aroused now, but I'm happy about it because I'm in control. And the bad word is distress. The difference between stress and distress is the perception of control. And so it's about being prepared. It's about being prepared. And you'll get it over aroused and here's, by the way. Here's another word that I've been spreading around and teaching. And you know, this word, emotional intelligence. It's not IQ, folks. It's EQ. And EQ means we've talked about it. Your self-motivation, resilience, purpose. Have a purpose. Think about the purpose. Think about the consequences you're going to get when you achieve the goals that you've set for the day. And then maybe I can enter this. I believe in smart schools. S specifically, what are you going to do? Right and M, Motivational, not measurable. As Zig Ziglar taught us, it's motivational. What will the consequence be when I achieve my goals? So specific, motivational, achievable. I can do that. It's a stretch goal, but I can do this and R is Relevant. My goal is relevant to make this world a better place. T, trackable. I'm going to track my progress on my goal, and the last thing I want to add is, S I use it for share, I want to share my goal with others because maybe they will help me stay accountable. And again, again, I think it's so important to become self-motivated and to recognize the three C's of self-motivation: choice, competence and community. And Mary, thank you for this opportunity to disseminate. We do. We do nothing if we don't get the word out. By the way, I've studied psychological science. Yes. For over 50 years, but it means nothing if people like you do not spread the word in the language that the people can understand and apply.

Mary: We have to change the world and we're doing it. So thank you so much. All these links, everything we talked about will be at Mary Barbera dot com for research 2 to 9. Thank you so much Dr. Scott Geller for joining us today. And I'll see you and you'll hear me next week. Same time, same place.

Dr. Scott: Thank you, Mary.

Mary: If you're a parent or professional and have listened to this whole podcast episode, perhaps many of the podcast episodes, I am here to tell you that your next best step is to most likely join our online course and community. We have a course now for toddlers and preschoolers. We also have a course to help older school aged children who are still struggling with talking tantrums, picky eating, sleeping, potty training and so much more. The course has very similar modules, very similar themes, but different case studies, different examples, different success stories. It is 60 days access in eight weeks. You can literally turn things around for your family or at your school in homes, helping families. Either way, it's an amazing community filled with parents and professionals from over 100 countries. I hope you check out all the details at and I hope to see your introduction in our community today.