Tutorial: Selection of Cultures and the Role of Recurrent Contingencies and Interlocking Behavioral Contingencies

  • Kalliu Carvalho CoutoEmail author
Regular Article


The interplay between a population’s traits and environmental events feeds evolution by natural selection. These traits may vary from innate predispositions to acquire specific behavioral topographies to the ability to learn through local environmental changes (operant behavior). Thus, learning capability is historically inseparable from evolution by natural selection. In humans, besides inheriting behavioral predispositions and the ability to acquire novel behavioral repertoires, learning is dependent on social learning of culturally transmitted practices. Cultural practices are selected by environmental events as a function of their adaptive value to the group and also enhance members’ adaptive capability. Within a verbal community, individuals cooperate and coordinate their behavior, producing environmental changes that would not be possible otherwise. Those cooperative and coordinated responses are under the control of the verbal community’s sets of contingencies (i.e., culture), which also evolve over time. In this paper, the coevolutionary processes involving natural selection, selection of operant behavior, and selection of cultures (environmental settings) will be discussed within a behavior-analytic perspective. A special focus will be given to interlocking behavioral contingencies (IBCs) involved in maintaining and transmitting practices (controlling IBCs) and in the verbal community’s joint efforts (execution IBCs).


Selection of cultures Controlling and execution IBCs Metacontingency 



The author would like to thank Ingunn Sandaker, Lucas de Carvalho, and Gunnar Ree for their support and feedback during the writing process. Tara Grant, the two anonymous reviewers, and the editor also gave valuable comments when revising this manuscript. The present text was adapted from the introduction of the author’s PhD thesis.


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Copyright information

© Association for Behavior Analysis International 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Oslo Metropolitan UniversityOsloNorway

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