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Evidence-Based Kernels: Fundamental Units of Behavioral Influence.

Abstract: This paper describes evidence-based kernels, fundamental units of behavioral influence that appear to underlie effective prevention and treatment for children, adults, and families. A kernel is a behavior–influence procedure shown through experimental analysis to affect a specific behavior and that is indivisible in the sense that removing any of its components would render it inert. Existing evidence shows that a variety of kernels can influence behavior in context, and some evidence suggests that frequent use or sufficient use of some kernels may produce longer lasting behavioral shifts. The analysis of kernels could contribute to an empirically based theory of behavioral influence, augment existing prevention or treatment efforts, facilitate the dissemination of effective prevention and treatment practices, clarify the active ingredients in existing interventions, and contribute to efficiently developing interventions that are more effective. Kernels involve one or more of the following mechanisms of behavior influence: reinforcement, altering antecedents, changing verbal relational responding, or changing physiological states directly. The paper describes 52 of these kernels, and details practical, theoretical, and research implications, including calling for a national database of kernels that influence human behavior.

Relevance to PAXIS’ Work: This landmark paper lays out an implicit, simple technology to influence human behavior using four types of kernels. This represents a sort of “erector set” for parents, teachers, businesses, clinicians and others to help people create healthier, happier, more productive and peaceful interactions.  PAXIS uses this technology to help organiztions and other entities achieve positive outcomes.