Behavioral Science in the Global Arena

Addressing Timely Issues at the United Nations and Beyond

Edited by:
Elaine P. Congress, Fordham University
Harold Takooshian, Fordham University
Abigail Asper, Psych Hub

A volume in the series: International Psychology. Editor(s): Elaine P. Congress, Fordham University. Harold Takooshian, Fordham University.

Published 2020

Behavioral scientists are increasingly involved in international work through cross cultural research, conference presentations, and faculty exchanges. Psychology and social work NGOs work at the United Nations, both on providing professional consultation on timely issues, as well as advocating to promote human rights and sustainable development. Although this work at the United Nations is an important arena for behavioral scientists, this has been barely covered in the academic literature.

"What are growing roles of psychology and the behavioral sciences at the United Nations today?" This first-ever volume brings together over 20 authors--both key experts and student interns--to answer this question. As the United Nations pursues its 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) for the year 2030, behavioral scientists now occupy increasingly diverse roles to pursue evidence-based answers for these 17 timely SDGs.

This panoramic yet concise 230-page volume is designed for students and professionals in the behavioral sciences, psychology and social work to provide state-of-the-art information on how behavioral scientists are addressing diverse global issues today. Each chapter offers a concise overview of a topic, including a glossary of current concepts, and citations to current research.


"I am delighted to recommend this volume, which uncovers two important truths to the success of the UN. 1. The critical role of civil society that makes the UN more humane. 2. The important role of behavioral sciences in shaping UN policies to produce successful outcomes. Because of the UN, we've not had a third world war, yet. Human Rights have expanded beyond belief of anyone who founded the UN 75 years ago."
- Bruce Knotts, U.S. diplomat, author, and Chair of the U.N. DPI NGO Executive Committee

"As this new volume describes, the world is a better place because of the United Nations - where most of the world comes together with diverse and lofty goals such as protecting the environment, promoting health, supporting equality, and maintaining peace. All of these major goals require interventions that sometimes maintain and sometimes change human behavior. National and international policies need to be informed by the best available research in the behavioral sciences. Our future depends on it."
- Diane F. Halpern, PhD., Former President, American Psychological Association

"Attaining the United Nations' 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by 2030 is a formidable challenge that can be furthered by a foundation of solid evidence. This book provides a base of relevant psychological knowledge that can inform policy and interventions in the achievement of those goals."
- Judith A. Gibbons, PhD, Past-President, Interamerican Society of Psychology

"The authors make a convincing case for the relevance of behavioral sciences to the work of the United Nations. Progress on women's rights, preparing for and recovering from natural disasters, adapting to climate change, improving child well-being and more all have behavioral dimensions. These must be addressed for the UN to make progress on its goals. By chronicling the involvements of psychology and social work in the United Nations, this volume will inspire students and practitioners to engage further in global work and advocacy."
- Lynne Healy, PhD, International Association of Schools of Social Work

"Behavioral Science in the Global Arena - a timely and significant volume about the role of psychologists at the UN addressing our contemporary social problems - i.e. human rights, social justice, climate and environmental change. As Congress, Takooshian, and Asper demonstrate, it is time for psychologists to move from their individual focus toward social change at a macro, diverse and global focus following the UN's 17 sustainable development goals for 2030. We need to acknowledge changing population demographics, growing mobility and aging in our population, and recognize the continued gender inequities and disparities among migrants salient today. No longer can we simply consider psychology's role in the aftermath of disaster, but to be proactive and on the forefront about counterterrorism, climate change, etc. to promote global action so that we think and act together toward shared social change."
- Jean Lau Chin, EdD, ABPP, Past-President, International Division, American Psychological Association

"As the UN celebrates its diamond anniversary, it is fitting that thinkers in psychology provide critical insights into psychology's engagement with the UN SDG Agenda. The authors have carefully considered the UN from many vantage points, especially behavioural. This important volume posits fresh ideas for psychology's role and future impact in the only global body that brings all governments together to tackle the social, economic, political and security factors that are essential for peace and collective human development in our fragile world."
- Saths Cooper, PhD, Past-President, International Union of Psychological Scientists (IUPsyS)

"I am very excited to see the publication of a much-needed book on the contribution of the behavioral sciences at the UN which highlights the role of social work. The editors have successfully illuminated how social workers have been increasingly involved in addressing international issues. Speaking as the current president of NASW, member of the International Federation of Social Workers Executive and as a social work educator, I am especially appreciative of the content on the long-term involvement that social workers have had in the work of the UN. This book is a gift to students who are increasingly seeking to become involved in international social work. I am especially impressed by the editors' commitment to promoting the professional development of students by having them co-author the chapters in the book with both academics and UN leaders. Well done!"
- Kathryn Conley Wehrmann, PhD, LCSW, President, National Association of Social Workers (NASW)

Foreword, Florence Denmark. Preface. Behavioral Sciences at the UN: An Overview, Harold Takooshian and Elaine P. Congress. SECTION A: SERVING CURRENT POPULATIONS. Aging, Patricia Brownell and Melissa Cueto. Child Welfare and Well-being, Uwe P. Gielen and Yasarina Almanzar. Migrant Adaption and Well-being, Abigail Asper. Gender Equity and Reproductive Justice, M. Whitehead and Abigail Asper. SECTION B: UPHOLDING SOCIAL JUSTICE. Poverty and Inequality, Kathy Elisca Clermont. Social Protection, Sergei Zelenev. Freedom and Democracy, Michael Stevens and Scott Eastman. Human Rights, Shirley Gatenio Gabel and Siva Mathiyazhagan. SECTION C: PROMOTING HARMONY. Counter-Terrorism, Ambassador T. Hamid Al-Bayati. Crime Prevention and Control, Taylor DeClerck. SECTION D: IMPROVING HUMAN HEALTH. Mental Health: Happiness and Well Being, Leslie Popoff and Jonathan DeSpirito. Physical Health, Rafael Latorre and Dalton Meister. Disaster and Trauma Intervention, Ani Kalayjian and Amna Khan. SECTION E: SUPPORTING ENVIRONMENTAL HEALTH. Promoting Environmental Health: Challenges and Successes, George Garland and Alessandro Guimaraes. Reducing Urban Noise, Melissa Search and Arline L. Bronzaft. Conclusion. About the Editors. Name Index.

"The fact that this publication is the first to focus on behavioral science within the United Nations grants it authority, making it a most deserving material to enrich the realm of applied behavioral science in both, to the academic and diplomatic communities alike. “Behavioral science in the global arena” manages to tackle a broad aspect of applied behavioral science in diplomatic affairs and successfully presents it in a manner well-suited for the academic and diplomatic spheres." Jose R. Rodrigues-Gomez University of Puerto Rico, San Juan in Social Behavior Research and Practice (Read full review)

"This book provides state-of-the-art analysis of what behavioral scientists can actually do to address the diverse global challenges today. Each chapter focuses on a specific topic, attempting to “boil the ocean” to manageable development goals, surveying concerns from the environmental climate action to increasing happiness." Dinesh Sharma Ph.D. Leaders in the Making in Psychology Today (Read full review)

"This book tells many stories about Behavioral Sciences at the United Nations (UN). It gives insights in important issues of the UN’s 17 “Sustainable Developmental Goals (SDGs)” (United Nations General Assembly, 2015) and how behavioral science contributes to these goals. It addresses different readers in various contexts, professionals and students. It is an excellent and exorbitant educational textbook for students and interested readers who want to know more about the projects and accomplishments of the UN.

The editors are three UN representatives, most of the chapters are authored by a leading expert in that specialty, together with a student intern working with the UN, so a profound insight of UN issues is provided." Roswith Roth University of Graz in Journal of Psychology and Pedagogics (Read full review)

"In Behavioral Science in the Global Arena, Elaine Congress, Harold Takooshian, and Abigail Asher have carefully edited a volume focused on the United Nations (U.N.) and the significance and relevance of behavioral sciences to its mission. As the U.N. celebrates its 75th year in 2020, the volume is an especially timely contribution, and surprisingly unique, in that whereas many books have been written about the U.N., the present one is arguably the first with this emphasis. This book is one with clear implications for readers of this American Psychological Association (APA) Division 48 Peace & Conflict journal, given their demonstrated interest and efforts to apply behavioral science to conflict resolution." Grant J. Rich University of Chicago in Peace and Conflict (Read full review)