Steven C. Hayes, PhD on Evolution & Contextual Behavior Science

What to Expect

When I saw The Evolutionary Canon came out AND the newly edited Evolution & Contextual Behavior Science book edited by David Sloan Wilson, PhD & Steven C. Hayes, PhD I was like - SIGN ME UP! Check out the video below, and the list with links to get your nerd on!



Links for Today:

The Evolutionary Canon

A list of books on evolution in relation to human affairs


  1. Does Altruism Exist? Culture, Genes, and the Welfare of Others. By David Sloan Wilson. A concise (150pp) overview of Multilevel Selection Theory and its many applications.

  2.  Evolution in Four Dimensions, by Eva Jablonka and Marion Lamb. This book goes back to basics by defining evolution in terms of variation, selection, and heredity, with genes as only one of several mechanisms of heredity. This book is somewhat academic in tone but otherwise well written and highly mind expanding!

  3.  The Secret of Our Success: How Culture is Driving Human Evolution, Domesticating Our Speices, and Making Us Smarter, by Joseph Henrich. A highly entertaining book on human cultural evolution by a leading researcher in the field. Henrich is chair of the Department of Human Biology at Harvard University.

  4.  Free to Learn: Why Unleashing the Instinct to Play will Make Our Children Happier, More Self-Reliant, and Better Students for Life, by Peter Gray. This book is essential reading for the NCS community! Peter is a close colleague of mine and can be brought into our conversation if you like.

  5.  Moral Origins: The Evolution of Virtue, Altruism, and Shame, by Christopher Boehm.  This book describes how human social behavior evolved in the context of small, egalitarian, and highly cooperative groups—which need to remain building blocks in modern large-scale societies.

  6.  Mothers and Others: The Evolutionary Origins of Human Understanding, by Sarah Hrdy. An excellent complement to Moral Origins, which focusses on the importance of extended childcare in human evolution.

  7.  Ultrasociety: How 10,000 Years of War Made us the Greatest Cooperators on Earth, by Peter Turchin. This book shows how human history can be regarded as a fossil record of human multi-level cultural evolution, leading from small tribes to the mega-societies of today.

  8.  Ages of Discord: A Structural-Demographic Analysis of American History, by Peter Turchin. This book will blow you away with its scientific analysis of American history, leading to our current troubled times. It’s pretty geeky, but math-phobes can read around the technical parts.

  9.  The Nurture Effect: How the Science of Human Behavior Can Improve Our Lives and the World, by Tony Biglan. This book shows that nurturance is a master variable, leading to multiple assets and protecting against multiple deficits. If there could be only one policy prescription, it would be to increase nurturance, especially for children and in small group settings.

  10.  Behave: The Biology of Humans at Their Best and Worst, by Robert Sapolsky. The author is both a neuroscientist and primate field biologist; also one of the most gifted writers among professional scientists.

  11.  Who We Are and How We Got Here: Ancient DNA and the New Science of the Human Past, by David Reich. The latest word on human movements throughout history, using DNA as the source of information.

  12.  She Has Her Mother’s Laugh: The Powers, Perversions, and Potential of Heredity, by Carl Zimmer. The author is one of the most gifted science journalists and this is his most recent book.

  13.  Evolution for Everyone: How Darwin’s Theory Can Change the Way We Think About Our Lives, by David Sloan Wilson. A very accessible book for a general audience, showing how evolutionary theory can be expanded beyond the biological sciences to include all things human. It includes a description of NCS as part of a mini-autobiography on pp 326-7.

  14.  Darwin’s Cathedral: Religion, Evolution, and the Nature of Society, by David Sloan Wilson. This book was written in 2002 but is still foundational for the subject and therefore should be read before mort recent books on the topic, which are numerous.

  15.  The Instruction of Imagination: Language as a Social Communication Technology, by Daniel Dor. A highly original account of the evolution of language that is paradigmatically different from the orthodox Chomsky account.

  16.  Deviate: The Science of Seeing Differently, by Beau Lotto. The author is a neuroscientist, entrepreneur, and TED speaker, with both substance and a hip style. He has a lot to say about creativity in children.

  17.  Complexity and Evolution: Toward a New Synthesis for Economics, edited by David Sloan Wilson and Alan Kirman.  This is an academic volume but worthwhile for those with a serious interest. For more accessible content representing the same paradigm, visit

  18.  Evolution and Contextual Behavioral Science: An Integrated Framework for Understanding, Predicting and Influencing Human Behavior, edited by David Sloan Wilson and Steve C. Hayes. This is also an academic volume but can be regarded as updated version of John Dewey’s educational philosophy.  

  19.  What is Art For?, by Ellen Dissanayake. A pioneering book on art from an evolutionary perspective.

  20.  The Storytelling Animal: How Stories Make Us Human, by Jonathan Gottschall. Highly entertaining book on how stories are a fundamental part of being human. The author is a former student of mine.

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Ryan O'Donnell, MS, BCBA

Ryan O'Donnell, MS, BCBA

Hey, I'm Ryan. I usually go by Ryan O or RYANO. I hail from northern Nevada in the grungy, yet surprisingly classy, (and newly renovated) Reno, Nevada. I like my climate like I like my data: evolving, uncompromising, and progressive. I am a master of science; that is, I have an M.S. in Applied Behavior Analysis, however, my interests have grown to include many other interests, including entrepreneurship and capturing perspectives and stories through various mediums. These interests and skills have allowed me to work with a lot of great people. I've started three businesses, started numerous active joint venture agreements, a behavioral think-tanka podcast, a professional development movement, helped organizations that support people with Intellectual Disabilities, to list a few. Currently, I lead product development and distribution for High Sierra Industries as a Learning Systems Development Specialist. I focus outside this role on building a community of thought leaders and doers to create content that increases the transparency of behavior analytic technologies with the hopes of creating a platform that truly saves the world. My interests are all over, from artificial intelligence and machine learning applications to the theory and philosophy behind Why We Do What We Do ( In my spare time you can find me consuming social media, prepping/climbing a giant mountain, or walking around with my camera in my hand (and, occasionally, all simultaneously). Connect with me personally on most all social platforms via @TheDailyBA and let me know what drives you to pursue the Behavior Analysis vision.

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