The Science of Consequences

How They Affect Genes, Change the Brain, and Impact Our World

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"La Ciencia de las Consecuencias"
Moron & J. Virues-Ortega, Translators
Selection of the
Scientific American Book Club 
Made it into top journal Nature 
Discussed on National Public Radio

Order the Book/Audiobook

Winner of the Media Award
(Association for Behavior Analysis International)
Publication date: November 20, 2012
Rowman & Littlefield, 383 pages
ISBN-13: 9781616146627

Consequences are everywhere.

Actions have consequences--and being able to learn from them revolutionized life on earth. It comes in quite handy for everyday life too.

Some consequences get learned the hard way, while others are taught, or come naturally. While it's easy enough to see that consequences are important, few have heard there's a science of consequences - fundamental learning principles that affect us every day, with applications everywhere.

Ten years in the making, THE SCIENCE OF CONSEQUENCES tells a tale ranging from genetics to neurotransmitters, from emotion to language, from parenting to politics. Taking an inclusive "systems" approach, author Susan Schneider draws together research lines from many scientific fields to tell a tale that's epic in scope.


From the Preface/Table of Contents

"Every day our actions have consequences, large and small. A completed chore, a smile, a promotion. Consequences motivate: Newborns work to hear their mothers' voices. Toddlers graduate to turning lights on and off for that lovely, surprising feeling of control. A kaleidoscope of consequences awaits.

Despite their dazzling variety, consequences appear to follow a common set of scientific principles--a big surprise to early researchers. Correspondingly, very different consequences appear to share some similar effects in the brain. We've long known of so-called "pleasure centers," for example.

From simple rewards to far more complex relations, the science of consequences has expanded and flourished over the past century, becoming an integral part of psychology, biology, medicine, education, economics, and many other fields. Taking an 'interacting systems' approach, this book describes this science, its role in the larger realm of nature-and-nurture, and its many applications.

Consequences shape our choices, and our choices shape us and our societies. (Even the ancient Greeks understood that.) The Science of Consequences tells the story of how something so deceptively simple can help make sense of so much."

Table of Contents


Part One: Consequences and How Nature-Nurture Really Works

Chapter 1: Consequences Everywhere
Chapter 2: Consequences and Evolution: The Cause that Works Backward
Chapter 3: Genes and Consequences
Chapter 4: Neuroscience and Consequences

Part Two: There's a Science of Consequences?

Chapter 5: Consequences on Schedule
Chapter 6: The Dark Side of Consequences
Chapter 7: Choices and Signals
Chapter 8: Pavlov and Consequences: An Essential Partnership
Chapter 9: Observing and Attending
Chapter 10: Thinking and Communicating

Part Three: Shaping Destinies

Chapter 11: Everyday Consequences
Chapter 12: Fighting the Impulse: Self-Control, Anyone?
Chapter 13: Endangered Species, Undercover Crows, and the Family Dog:
Applications for Animals
Chapter 14: The Rewards of Education and Work
Chapter 15: Help for Addiction, Autism, and Other Conditions
Chapter 16: Consequences on a Grand Scale: Society, the Long Term, and the Planet



"This engaging, thoroughly researched book could not be more timely or useful. . . Bringing the timeless contributions of B.F. Skinner into the twenty-first century, [Schneider] shows how the relationship between the brain and behavior is a two-way street, how change really happens, and why a proper understanding of consequences can improve our lives, relationships, and society."

-Carol Tavris, PhD, coauthor of Mistakes Were Made (But Not by Me)

A wide-ranging and highly entertaining guide to the many ways that the behavior of humans and other animals--from bugs to bonobos--is shaped by consequences. Schneider knows the science and loves her subject, and the result is an enjoyable and enlightening book for anyone who is curious about behavior and what makes it tick."

-Mark S. Blumberg, PhD, F. Wendell Miller Distinguished Professor, University of Iowa, author of Freaks of Nature, Editor-in-Chief, Behavioral Neuroscience

"Schneider thoroughly and beautifully explains the elementary rule that governs all living creatures--behavior is shaped by its consequences. This book is a kind of love letter to a simple, yet profound truism."

-Amy Sutherland, author of What Shamu Taught Me about Life, Love, and Marriage

"A remarkable book. Skinner might have won over far more people had he had The Science of Consequences in his arsenal. It's marvelous."

-Paul Chance, PhD, former editor of Psychology Today, author of Learning and Behavior

"In this important and enjoyable book, Susan Schneider shows how behavioral consequences shape the molecular activities of cells, the wiring of brains, the minds and choices of individuals, and the intricate social worlds of human beings. With humor and compassion, using many wonderful examples . . . she demonstrates the power and subtlety of the science of consequences, showing how its principles can be mobilized to improve and enrich our lives."

-Eva Jablonka, PhD, coauthor of Evolution in Four Dimensions

"Fascinating . . . A ten-year labor of stunning scholarship across many disciplines."

-Karen Pryor, author of Reaching the Animal Mind

"I truly enjoyed this book; it's an important contribution . . ."

-Aubrey C. Daniels, PhD, author of Bringing Out the Best in People

". . . such a carnival of well-attested cases from the animal kingdom as we have not seen since Konrad Lorenz's magical King Solomon's Ring."

-George Ainslie, PhD, author of Picoeconomics

© 2012-2023 Susan M. Schneider