Acting in light of the future: How do future-oriented cultural practices evolve and how can we accelerate their evolution

 Anthony Biglan & Yvonne Barnes-Holmes

 Despite extensive knowledge of how to prevent or ameliorate serious diseases, natural disasters, environmental degradation, and a wide range of other problems, we often fail to take action that would prevent or mitigate these problematic outcomes. In short, although we may have sound scientific knowledge about threats to future wellbeing, we appear to have limited insight into how to benefit from this knowledge. With this paper, we argue that our current scientific understanding of how to act in light of the future is limited, but we offer a theoretical analysis of future-oriented behavior at both individual and organizational levels. Specifically, the paper draws on a functional contextualist account of human language and cognition, Relational Frame Theory (RFT), and its integrated therapeutic approach, Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT), and extends this framework to analyzing the evolution of the practices of groups and organizations. This framework can provide an understanding of how human behavior may be modified in the present to serve improving human wellbeing in the future at individual, organizational, and even national levels.

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