Thursday, 2 June 2016

Seminar by Dr Paul Atkins - PROSOCIAL: Enhancing psychological flexibility in groups to improve cooperation

The Health and Clinical Psychology Research Group presents 

A seminar by Dr Paul Atkins

ACU Institute for Positive Psychology and Education

Title: PROSOCIAL: Enhancing psychological flexibility in groups to improve cooperation
Date: Wednesday 8th June 12 noon
Place: Keats Room (AVLG17) - Video conferenced to Ourimbah Science Offices

Abstract: PROSOCIAL is a process for improving co-operation among people. It is built on strong foundations – drawing upon Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT), evolutionary theory of group selection, and the Nobel prize winning work of Elinor Ostrom exploring how groups successfully manage common-pool resources. Cooperation is often undermined by avoidance of aversive experience, and the tensions between individual and collective interests. PROSOCIAL relies upon first building psychological flexibility, perspective taking and trust in the group using techniques deriving from ACT, and then proceeds to explore eight aspects of group functioning: purpose and identity, equity, decision making, tracking behaviour, sanctions for misbehaviour, conflict management, autonomy to act and relations with other groups. In this talk, I will describe the principles informing PROSOCIAL and give a very brief experiential introduction to the process. I expect this talk will be of interest to anyone working with people to improve relationships. More information about PROSOCIAL is available at and

Bio: Dr. Paul Atkins is a Senior Research Fellow with the Institute for Positive Psychology and Education at the Australian Catholic University. He holds grants exploring the processes influencing stress and wellbeing in the NSW Police force, the hospital system and among school principals. He is an endorsed Organisational Psychologist. His research focuses upon the impacts of compassion, mindfulness, values and identity upon relationships and wellbeing. Paul has extensive experience teaching and researching mindfulness based treatments such as Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) and Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT). His work draws primarily upon contextual-behavioural thinking such as Relational Frame Theory and he is President Elect of the Australia and New Zealand Association for Contextual Behavioural Science – the peak body for ACT. Recent publications include a mixed method approach to measuring mindfulness and values-based living in natural language texts (Atkins & Styles, 2016, "Measuring psychological flexibility in what people say: A behavioral measure of self-discrimination predicts wellbeing." Journal of Contextual Behavioral Science) and an edited volume with CUP called “Mindfulness in Organisations” (