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Talk @ Life Improvement Science conference 2021

Talk: Evolving a more prosocial world Through cooperation and psychological flexibility

Developments across a number of human science disciplines in the last decades have provided insight into the conditions and behaviors that influence valued outcomes such as sustainability, prosociality, and well-being. Three scientific trends in particular have relevance for the development of a Life Improvement Science


First, an emerging transdisciplinary understanding of evolutionary science helps us to view individuals, groups, and larger societies as systems, changing and adapting behaviors and cultures through evolutionary processes that span across levels, and can have various outcomes regarding the things that individuals and communities might care about. 


Second, the transdisciplinary area of cooperation science studies cooperation dynamics across biology, ecology, psychology, economics and political science. In particular the work of political scientist Elinor Ostrom showed that cooperation and prosociality towards sustainable resource use tend to be promoted across cultures and settings only under certain social conditions, and is hindered when these conditions are not met. Hence, well-doing and prosociality are predicted to occur – to evolve through (cultural and behavioral) evolutionary processes  – under conditions such as having a shared sense of identity and shared values, equity, transparency, and autonomy. 


Third, the field of contextual behavioral science has advanced an evidenced approach to mental health called Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT). ACT is part of the so-called third wave of behavioral interventions, with a focus on core cognitive processes such as acceptance and mindfulness, values clarification, and action in line with values. The interactions of these processes within individuals and groups tend to promote psychological flexibility, or the capacity to move towards valued outcomes even in the face of difficult or challenging internal experiences and circumstances. 


Together, these fields have the potential to inform interventions that foster well-doing across a range of contexts. In this talk, we give an overview of how these fields have been integrated in the context of the Prosocial ARC process, an approach aimed at catalyzing prosocial behavior and culture change to consciously evolve who we are, how we connect with each other, and how we interact with the planet. The Prosocial ARC process is a development by Prosocial World, a global U.S. based non-profit organization and applied research community that is eager to connect and work on the topic of Life Improvement Science. The talk will also give an overview of the current scope, research aims, and network development of the Prosocial World community and how it relates to Life Improvement Science. In particular, we highlight examples of how Prosocial is being implemented towards evolving schools as places for well-doing and life improvement.

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