The idea of selection as a causal force is central to Darwin’s theory of evolution, according to which, species evolve in response to environmental contingencies of survival. The implications of this for humankind were very challenging and difficult for many to accept. Some still struggle with the concept more than a hundred and fifty years later.
In the area of behavioural psychology, a parallel process is posited to account for the evolution of behaviour over the lifetime of the individual, raising similar existential concerns with regard to concepts such as free will, personal responsibility and the workings of the mind. According to this approach, behaviour is shaped primarily by environmental contingencies of reinforcement.
This paper will focus on the selection of behaviour and the implications of this approach in a variety of contexts including clinical practice, education, organisational behaviour and human relationships generally.
Paul is a Chartered Clinical Psychologist and Chartered Work and Organisational Psychologist with the Psychological Society of Ireland (PSI). He is a founder member of the Irish Skeptics Society and holds an adjunct Associate Professorship in the School of Psychology UCD.