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E. Scott Geller’s new psychology book encompasses 46 years of research in applied behavioral science

February 17, 2016

Scott Geller
Scott Geller, an Alumni Distinguished Professor in the Virginia Tech Department of Psychology, owns several horses on a ranch in nearby Giles County.

E. Scott Geller has released a new book, “Applied Psychology: Actively Caring for People,” that Geller says encompasses his renowned 46-year career at Virginia Tech, and his passion for self-improvement and positive thinking.

Geller, an Alumni Distinguished Professor in the Department of Psychology, part of the College of Science, authored and edited the 700-page book with more a dozen Virginia Tech graduate students and alumni. Chapters focus on applied behavioral science and the Geller-launched global Actively Caring for People movement, which Geller says benefits human welfare and quality of life on both individual and cultural levels.

“Our book was written to provide the reader with practical strategies they can use to improve their quality of life as well as the welfare of others, in such areas as coaching, teaching, parenting, preventing alcohol abuse, promoting safe driving, preventing obesity, and improving healthcare,” said Geller.

Published by Cambridge University Press, the book is divided into two parts. It will hit shelves Feb. 25.

Part one focuses on evidence-based principles of the Actively Caring for People Movement, or AC4P for short, including the foundation of applied behavioral science, the psychology of self-motivation, the courage to actively care, and the intersection of AC4P and positive psychology. Part two focuses on practical applications of AC4P principles. The chapters use the AC4P mantra in a variety of every day common scenarios, from healthcare to education and parenting and also environmental protection and sustainability.

The movement predates the 1987 founding of Geller’s Center for Applied Behavior Systems, also part of the Department of Psychology. The center was founded to provide hands-on research experience for Virginia Tech students that could inspire quality of life improvements as part of a larger worldwide effort, thus benefiting human welfare, said Geller.

“We started with environmental preservation in 1971, then moved to safety belt promotion, and then to behavior-based safety which has become a worldwide approach to keeping people safe in the workplace,” he added. “During this time, we also studied alcohol abuse on our campus, and did significant research on reducing medical error among healthcare workers. The book covers all of these areas and actually reflects my entire career at Virginia Tech.”

Scott’s co-authors include fellow faculty member Roseanne Foti, also with psychology, and several university alumni and current graduate students. 

Foti focused on leadership. “The goal of our chapter is to show how people can use AC4P strategies in their everyday life to be both a better leader and a better follower,” said Foti. “What is so exciting about Scott’s latest book is the broad scope giving it the capacity to reach many diverse audiences.”

Sallie Beth Johnson of Roanoke, Virginia, and a doctoral student in the Department of Human Nutrition Foods and Exercise, part of Virginia Tech College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, focused on obesity. “We provided an overview of the obesity epidemic, its complex causes and consequences, and called for an AC4P approach to promoting healthy lifestyles,” said Johnson, who previously took Geller’s graduate course in large-scale applications of behavioral science. “Ultimately, I hope this chapter offers tangible steps and inspiration for more people to actively care for the health, wellness, and well-being of themselves and others.”

Actively Caring for People has gone through many incarnations under Geller, who joined Virginia Tech in 1969. The effort began with industrial workplace safety seminars, and took on new significance at Virginia Tech after April 16, 2007, with a new effort by students under Geller to inspire intentional acts of kindness.

“AC4P epitomizes applied psychology, and is greatly needed in our world,” added Geller. “Today we talk about neuropsychology, personality, abnormal psychology, developmental psychology, and so on. While each of these areas is important for understanding human dynamics, they do not provide practical information people can use today to make a positive difference in their lives. That is why I am so pleased and proud of our new book. It teaches applied psychology as it should be taught — principles and procedures people can use now to bring out the best in themselves and others for the benefit of society.”

Geller’s center is now focused on studying Virginia Tech athletics to determine ways to improve team performance, particularly to enhance self-motivation and apply behavioral science to improve sports skills.

Additionally, Geller recently completed a training manual for police, co-authored by Bobby Kipper, a retired police officer who founded the National Center for the Prevention of Community Violence. The AC4P-inspired manual will be used in police departments nationwide, said Geller.

Geller has previously authored dozens of books, and in 2013, presented a TEDxVirginiaTech talk that has since been viewed more than 2 million times.

Dedicated to its motto, Ut Prosim (That I May Serve), Virginia Tech takes a hands-on, engaging approach to education, preparing scholars to be leaders in their fields and communities. As the commonwealth’s most comprehensive university and its leading research institution, Virginia Tech offers 240 undergraduate and graduate degree programs to more than 31,000 students and manages a research portfolio of $513 million. The university fulfills its land-grant mission of transforming knowledge to practice through technological leadership and by fueling economic growth and job creation locally, regionally, and across Virginia.

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