Sunday, August 11, 2013

Redirect (Recommended Book): How Our Stories Become Reality
I just finished reading Redirect: The Surprising New Science of Psychological Change, by Timothy D. Wilson.  The basic premise is that we can use the process of "story editing" to:
  • combat prejudice
  • recover from trauma
  • close the achievement gap
  • become better parents and teachers; and
  • reduce teenage pregnancy, violence, and substance abuse

Obviously, this is a tall order.  Wilson doesn't claim that story editing will do all of this by itself, but does make a powerful argument for incorporating it into any program that aims to assist at-risk populations.

So, what is story editing?
a set of techniques designed to redirect people's narratives about themselves and the social world in a way that leads to lasting changes in behavior. 

Unfortunately, many well-intentioned programs are ineffective, or even detrimental, because they send the recipients unintended messages or bring together negative influences.  For example, children who are paid to read books may absorb the message that reading isn't enjoyable.  And social gatherings of at-risk teens can lead to peers encouraging each other to get pregnant or use drugs, exactly what the programs are trying to prevent.

Therefore, it's important to rely not on "common sense" approaches but rather on programs that have been appropriately studied and proven to be effective.  According to Wilson, many such programs have the common component of changing how people perceive themselves and their social group.  For example, volunteering can be one of the most effective ways to help troubled youth because they begin to perceive themselves as helpful people who are part of the community.

As someone who tends to be skeptical of statistics, I found this a useful introduction to the benefits of social psychology research.  I especially appreciated the clear explanations of how studies should be conducted to achieve the most accurate results, thereby providing the greatest benefits to the populations we're trying to help.

If you're interested in more information about effective programs, Wilson recommends the following websites:

What Works Clearinghouse,from the U.S. Department of Education's Institute of Education Sciences, gives information about various types of educational programs and the extent to which their effectiveness has been studied:

Blueprints for Healthy Youth Development, from the University of Colorado's Institute of Behavioral Science, gives information about "programs that meet the highest scientific standard of evidence for promoting youth behavior, education, emotional well-being, health, and positive relationships."

related posts:

Mindfulness for Teen Anger (recommended book)

Restorative, Not Punitive Responses to Youthful Wrongdoing (interview)

Teaching For-Credit Mindfulness Classes (interview)

Teaching Mindfulness to At-Risk Youth (interview)

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