Actions have consequences--and the ability to learn from them revolutionized life on earth. While it's easy enough to see that consequences are important (where would we be without positive reinforcement?), few have heard there's a science of consequences, with principles that affect us every day. Despite their variety, consequences appear to follow a common set of scientific principles and share some similar effects in the brain--such as the "pleasure centers." Nature and nurture always work together, and scientists have demonstrated that learning from consequences predictably activates genes and restructures the brain. Applications are everywhere--at home, at work, and at school, and that's just for starters. Individually and societally, for example, self-control pits short-term against long-term consequences. Ten years in the making, this award-winning booktells a tale ranging from genetics to neurotransmitters, from emotion to language, from parenting to politics, taking an inclusive interdisciplinary approach to show how something so deceptively simple can help make sense of so much.
Schneider, a psychologist and prot g of B.F. Skinner, takes a wide-ranging approach to the topic of how reinforcing and punishing feedback from the environment shapes behavior and directs learning, from the trainability of light-avoidant planaria to the complex machinations of human politics. Citing a diverse collection of behavioral, biological, and mathematical modeling studies, Schneider groups many topics regarding learning and behavior under the rubric of "science of consequences," including epigenetics, behavioral shaping, neuroplasticity, classical conditioning, and observational learning. She details the kinds of things that are most rewarding across species such as variety in the environment, attention from others, and a sense of control. Schneider highlights the reward styles that research shows are most effective (e.g., immediate rather than delayed results) and then applies them to practical approaches to training pets, educating children, changing bad habits, and improving our culture. Though the writing can be jumpy and rambling at times, and individuals in the fields discussed might find Schneider's syncretic approach oversimplified, this big-picture analysis is a good reminder that rewards are powerful and no behavior is without consequences and the ability to change us. Illus.