Bobbi Hoadley and Cathy Knights
May 13, 2019
Bobbi Hoadley and Cathy Kni...

The Physical Evidence of Behaviour - Can't Judge a Book by It's Cover

Podcast 11 - Can't Judge a Book by It's Cover

ABA technical concepts covered in this podcast: Description, prediction, control; Objective observation; observable phenomena; P+; Positive Behaviour Support; Behavioural cusp or pivotal behaviour; Intrinsic reinforcement

Presenters - Bobbi Hoadley, Cathy Knights.

Cathy finds it creepy that she gives her private thoughts away without knowing it.

Only partly true. Some TV shows about behaviour analysts – people who can analyze people's facial characteristics, and more work being done on it all the time. More recent research is the polyvagal theory, by Stephen Porges. I want to talk about how much you can judge a book by its cover and how much we pick up on that at any time. You walk into a room, you size people up pretty quick. A good bit of first impressions come from what you're observing in the person's body, and facial features, and the presentation of the situation they are in. Judging how they are coming across in a very physical way. The polyvagal theory discusses the autonomic nervous system.

One of the questions I ask is how does it feel when you're anxious or stressed? Sick to stomach, short of breath, heart is pounding. The nerve endings are in the spinal cord behind the thoracic cavity, so you have this whole nervous system that is responding to the environment. One of the uses is biofeedback. If your system is firing all the time, then your whole physiology is working overtime. You want your parasympathetic and sympathetic systems to work in concert. You can learn how to have less stress. Autonomic nervous system is one way of recognizing what's going on. Stephen Porges points out you can always tell a lack of congruency, e.g. facial features don't match. Body language is such that you're drawn away, or...

A lot of work done on more intuitive vibes coming from people- where does the soul in a human being exist? Experiments done by Alva Noe trying to isolate where in fact is that place - he's come to understand it's in the environment. We share amongst each other and there's this interconnectedness. Our First Nations seem to have known that, part of a huge organism.

I teach staff about the way they're presenting themselves physically. There's a quote "The success of an intervention is the direct result of the internal state of the intervener". I'm trying to create interveners who are successful. So we're trying to assess where's the quality of the interaction coming from in this person because that's critical to how successful they're going to be. If I screen staff, can they give eye contact, is their face congruent? Pets, horses, and babies pick up on our autonomic nervous system. Always under our plans of what doesn't work, mirroring anxiety or concern. Many people with disabilities become quite sensitive to the internal state of the person. I'm anxious because you're anxious – fear and anger look very similar in your face. There's a hypervigilance that comes from having caregivers because it's such a vulnerable place to be. There's also a sense of pets feeling your internal state.

I'll have a client who's extremely agitated, and I need to bring my internal state down to calm, and I can control that. The best way to deescalate someone, is lower your voice, speak softly, look the person in eye with no unpleasantness.

Studies show if you spend time smiling for a minute, it changes your internal state. I'll teach and say smile and hold that smile until it becomes real.

I know in our police departments, there is currently teaching on how to approach people with mental health problems in a nonthreatening way. Sometimes they are too reinforcing – we have to tell facilities to have police more strong and firm in order to have a good natural consequence.

The internal state of the intervener is everything for the success of the intervention – we can all be a little more aware of how we present. Older people have frozen into certain looks. I had a client who I put the smiley face on his hand. He had a demeanour that was very cross and threatening looking. He reminded me of the radio show the Champ One of the early interventions was to practice smiling every time he looked at it. Then go to a mirror-learn to smile. He says to me, it's like a miracle – I smile at people, and they smile brain at me. He has a brain injury, if he can do it, so can you.

Who we are is in the physical presentation. We don't want to make assumptions about people so don't judge a book by its cover. On the other hand, make sure you have some awareness of the message you're sending at critical times in your life. Let's make sure that our internal state models what others need in that moment –for our pets and our children. I'm okay, you're okay.