By Todd A. Ward, PhD, BCBA-D
Founding Editor, bSci21.org
The Washington Post recently reported on a new study claiming that Twitter predicts heart disease better than the combined factors of diabetes, education, income, and smoking. According to Joahannes Eichstaedt, the study’s first author, “using Twitter as a tool to measure public health can help policymakers more quickly and effectively target campaigns and measure their results.”
The study specifically found that anxiety-related tweets, such as anger, was predictive of heart disease death at the county level across the U.S., and vice versa for positive tweets. However, what’s even more interesting is that “the people sending all those negative tweets aren’t the ones dying from heart disease.” The researchers suggest that the tweets are indicative of anxiety present in the larger environment of those tweeting.
Interestingly, behavior analysts might go a step farther and suggest that anxiety itself is not necessarily the issue. Rather, our verbal relationship to those stimuli we call “anxiety” might be the more important factor. This is the perspective of Acceptance & Commitment Therapy (ACT), which is a talk therapy derived from behavior analysis…and if you were at the ABAI Autism Conference recently, then you heard the founder, Steve Hayes, discuss its utility in the autism community, including parents.
At the heart of ACT is our verbal behavior, or verbal constructions about the world around us. Sometimes, those constructions may be factors in the production of psychological rigidity and lead someone to behave in a largely verbally constructed setting. Through mindfulness, values-clarification, and other techniques, one can come to undercut deleterious verbal functions of stimuli such that one may come into contact with reinforcers aligned with one’s valued life directions.
ACT interventions have demonstrated success in a multitude of settings, including staff turnover, eduction, psychopathology, and many more. Instead of providing you with an exhaustive list of the literature, a good place to start would be the Association for Contextual Behavioral Science and the Journal of Contextual Behavioral Science. There you will find voluminous resources on ACT and its collection of principles found in Relational Frame Theory.
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Todd A. Ward, PhD, BCBA-D is President of bSci21 Media, LLC, which owns bSci21.org and BAQuarterly.com. Todd serves as an Associate Editor of the Journal of Organizational Behavior Management and as an editorial board member for Behavior and Social Issues. He has worked as a behavior analyst in day centers, residential providers, homes, and schools, and served as the director of Behavior Analysis Online at the University of North Texas. Todd’s areas of expertise include writing, entrepreneurship, Acceptance & Commitment Therapy, Instructional Design, Organizational Behavior Management, and ABA therapy. Todd can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.