Evidence-based Kernels: Fundamental Units of Behavioral Influence

PAXIS Institute, P.O. 31205, Tucson, AZ 85751, USA.
Clinical Child and Family Psychology Review (Impact Factor: 4.75). 10/2008; 11(3):75-113. DOI: 10.1007/s10567-008-0036-x
Source: PubMed


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.

Download full-text


Available from: Dennis D Embry
    • "The promotion of kindness as one dimension of school climate is in alignment with the call for SEL to be integrated, infused, and embedded within daily instruction. Although many pre-packaged programs are available promoting SEL in schools (e.g., MindUP, PATHS, RULER), there has been recent recognition that SEL should be incorporated within the routine school experience of students and not uniquely introduced as isolated lessons initiated by and found within external programs (Embry & Biglan, 2008;Hymel, Shonert-Reichl, & Miller, 2006;Jones & Bouffard, 2012;Schonert-Reichl & Weissberg, 2014). Elias (2006) argues that SEL should not be taught as a separate subject but, rather, should be linked to and integrated within and throughout all subject areas. "
    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: In this study, we sought to create and validate a brief measure to assess students’ perceptions of kindness in school. Participants included 1,753 students in Grades 4 to 8 attending public schools in a large school district in southern British Columbia. The School Kindness Scale (SKS) demonstrated a unidimensional factor structure and adequate internal consistency. The pattern of associations of the SKS to a corpus of theoretically relevant constructs obtained via student self-reports (classroom supportiveness, optimism, happiness, prosocial and social goals, satisfaction with life, and academic self-efficacy) provided evidence for convergent and discriminant validity. Furthermore, the SKS was significantly and positively associated with teacher reports on students’ empathy, social skills, and peer acceptance. Analyses by gender and grade indicated that girls perceived significantly higher levels of kindness in school than did boys, and that students’ perceptions of kindness in school decreased from fourth to eighth grade, with fourth-grade students reporting the highest levels of kindness in school and eighth-grade students reporting the lowest levels. The theoretical importance of investigating students’ perceptions of kindness in the school context and the practical implications of this research for informing educational efforts to promote social and emotional competencies in school communities are discussed.
    No preview · Article · Dec 2015 · Psychology in the Schools
  • Source
    • "served as a secondary criterion (which better forecasts chronic antisocial behavior than conduct disorder diagnosis; Robins and Price, 1991). SU and conduct problems are qualitatively different; nonetheless, their incidences each increase exponentially during adolescence (Andrews et al., 2003; Johnston et al., 2012) and many programs have efficacy for preventing or reducing both behaviors (Diamond and Lee, 2011; Dishion and Stormshak, 2007; Embry and Biglan, 2008). "
    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: Youth substance use (SU) is prevalent and costly, affecting mental and physical health. American Academy of Pediatrics and Affordable Care Act call for SU screening and prevention. The Youth Risk Index(©) (YRI) was tested as a screening tool for having initiated and propensity to initiate SU before high school (which forecasts SU disorder). YRI was hypothesized to have good to excellent psychometrics, feasibility and stakeholder acceptability for use during well-child check-ups. A high-risk longitudinal design with two cross-sectional replication samples, ages 9-13 was used. Analyses included receiver operating characteristics and regression analyses. A one-year longitudinal sample (N=640) was used for YRI derivation. Replication samples were a cross-sectional sample (N=345) and well-child check-up patients (N=105) for testing feasibility, validity and acceptability as a screening tool. YRI has excellent test-retest reliability and good sensitivity and specificity for concurrent and one-year-later SU (odds ratios=7.44, CI=4.3-13.0) and conduct problems (odds ratios=7.33, CI=3.9-13.7). Results were replicated in both cross-sectional samples. Well-child patients, parents and pediatric staff rated YRI screening as important, acceptable, and a needed service. Identifying at-risk youth prior to age 13 could reap years of opportunity to intervene before onset of SU disorder. Most results pertained to YRI's association with concurrent or recent past risky behaviors; further replication ought to specify its predictive validity, especially adolescent-onset risky behaviors. YRI well identifies youth at risk for SU and conduct problems prior to high school, is feasible and valid for screening during well-child check-ups, and is acceptable to stakeholders. Copyright © 2015 Elsevier Ireland Ltd. All rights reserved.
    Full-text · Article · Mar 2015 · Drug and Alcohol Dependence
  • Source
    • "This includes familyfocused and school interventions, plus community and policy interventions affecting entire populations. Embry and Biglan (2008) compiled a list of more than 50 evidence-based kernels (see Table 1 for a sample), which are defined as " 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 " (Embry 2004). Some interventions involve change at the individual level, using principles similar to behavioral, cognitive, and mindfulnessbased therapies. "
    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: Humans possess great capacity for behavioral and cultural change, but our ability to manage change is still limited. This article has two major objectives: first, to sketch a basic science of intentional change centered on evolution; second, to provide examples of intentional behavioral and cultural change from the applied behavioral sciences, which are largely unknown to the basic sciences community. All species have evolved mechanisms of phenotypic plasticity that enable them to respond adaptively to their environments. Some mechanisms of phenotypic plasticity count as evolutionary processes in their own right. The human capacity for symbolic thought provides an inheritance system having the same kind of combinatorial diversity as does genetic recombination and antibody formation. Taking these propositions seriously allows an integration of major traditions within the basic behavioral sciences, such as behaviorism, social constructivism, social psychology, cognitive psychology, and evolutionary psychology, which are often isolated and even conceptualized as opposed to one another. The applied behavioral sciences include well-validated examples of successfully managing behavioral and cultural change at scales ranging from individuals to small groups to large populations. However, these examples are largely unknown beyond their disciplinary boundaries, for lack of a unifying theoretical framework. Viewed from an evolutionary perspective, they are examples of managing evolved mechanisms of phenotypic plasticity, including open-ended processes of variation and selection. Once the many branches of the basic and applied behavioral sciences become conceptually unified, we are closer to a science of intentional change than one might think.
    Full-text · Article · Aug 2014 · Behavioral and Brain Sciences
Show more