Center for Applied Behavior Systems (CABS)

Faculty Director
202 Williams Hall
Monday - Friday: 12pm - 5pm
Primary Phone
Mobile Phone

About Us

The Center for Applied Behavior Systems (CABS) is a center for intervention research located in the Psychology Department at Virginia Tech. The Center was founded by Dr. E. Scott Geller in 1987. In addition to Dr. Geller, the Center is led by two to five graduate students, two coordinators, and a faculty member in the Department of Animal Science - Dr. Erica Feuerbacher. Each semester 30 to 50 undergraduate students learn how to conduct research that combines the technology of applied behavior analysis with theories from experimental, social, and applied psychology. Our research not only provides opportunities for real-world, hands-on experience for our students, but it also works toward an improved quality of life in organizations throughout communities.


  • Help students, undergraduate and graduate, learn how to conduct research that combines the technology of applied behavior analysis with theories from experimental, social, and applied psychology.
  • Give students real-world, hands-on research experience, from designing methodology and data analysis strategies to documenting findings in professional publications.
  • Teach community-based research and intervention techniques and approaches.
  • Give students the opportunity to participate in leading edge professional activities.
  • Improve quality of life in the community.
  • Teach and demonstrate the value of Actively Caring for People (


Center Director: Dr. E. Scott Geller

Center Coordinators: Tyler Parker-Rollins ( and Evan Alvarez (

Graduate Students: Jack Wardale, Samuel Browning


Current Research Projects

Pedestrian Gratuity:

You’re waiting to cross the street, and a car stops to let you cross the crosswalk. Do you give them a “wave” to express your gratitude? When we ask people this question, nearly everyone says that they do. However, we have been studying pedestrian behavior at crosswalks for the last 3 years, and we have observed that only around 14% of people crossing the street “wave” at the person letting them cross. This project focuses on implementing interventions which intend to increase the level of pedestrian gratuity at crosswalks at Virginia Tech.

Bagless Blacksburg (Greeks Go Green):

Our center’s leading environmental-protection project intends to reduce plastic waste in our community by increasing reusable bag use at grocery stores here in Blacksburg, VA. Preliminary data collection over the last two years suggests that young people (particularly young men) are disproportionately contributing to plastic bag waste. Considering that Blacksburg is made up of primarily young Virginia Tech students, this is especially problematic. To address this issue, the center is launching an intervention called Greeks Go Green, which targets members of Greek organizations (fraternities and sororities) at Virginia Tech. The intervention involves a competition between members of various Greek organizations at Virginia Tech to use the most reusable bags. A sign displaying a “leaderboard” of the organizations which use the most reusable bags will be placed outside of Kroger locations in Blacksburg, incentivizing members of these organizations to use more reusable bags than their peers. The competitive environment created by this intervention intends to increase the overall level of reusable bag usage and environmental conscientiousness of Blacksburg residents.

Psychological Safety:

Have you ever felt nervous asking your classmates for help on an assignment? Or perhaps felt uncomfortable challenging a view held by your professor that you disagree with? If so, you likely lacked psychological safety in these scenarios, a concept which refers to how comfortable one feels at expressing one’s thoughts, feelings and/or attitudes in a given situation. This concept has been explored extensively in industry, and higher psychological safety has been shown to increase creativity (Castro et al., 2018), engagement (Frazier et al., 2016), and reduce distress (Obrenovic et al., 2020) within the workplace. Despite these benefits, the concept has seldom been studied outside the workplace. This discrepancy led our center to develop a project exploring this concept throughout higher education at Virginia Tech, studying how variance in psychological safety is impacted by the type of class a student is taking (i.e., engineering course vs. biology course).

Thank You Professor:

Gratitude expression (i.e., doing things like saying “thank you”) is one of the most powerful tools we have to improve well-being. Gratitude expression is especially powerful because it results in a “win-win”—both the person expressing gratitude and the person receiving the gratitude feel better after an interaction in which one expresses gratitude. This project focuses on evaluating the impact of gratitude expressions on the mood states of students, using a customized thank-you card (TYC) delivered to a professor after their class. Our research findings suggest that the act of giving a professor a TYC significantly increases mood states in students, with our most recent study showing a 36% increase in the average self-reported mood states of students who had given the TYC.

Misogyny Online:

The advent of social media has led to the ability to spread information and ideas across populations with unprecedented ease. However, this rise in social media popularity has facilitated an increase in misogynistic content, spreading its influence among young populations. The negative impact of misogynistic social content extends beyond emotion, increasing the prevalence of violent acts against women. Using a range of TikTok videos, this study explores the gender differences between men and women concerning the identification of misogyny online. The primary aim of this exploratory study is to provide evidence of gender differences that could be used to inform future studies about misogyny online.

Emotion Perception:

Accurately predicting the emotions of others is an important skill. Whether a doctor is trying to assess the wellbeing of a patient, a teacher is trying to gauge a student’s understanding of class material, or a police officer is attempting to de-escalate a situation, correctly interpreting the emotions of relevant others can help assess the situation and decide how to best proceed. Misperceptions of the emotions of others can cause miscommunication and interpersonal conflict, making emotion perception a crucial part of facilitating positive interactions between people. However, people’s ability to correctly interpret emotions can be adversely impacted by stressful situations. Therefore, it is important to study how different levels of stress can affect perceptions of emotion and nonverbal communication. This project explores relations between stress and one’s ability to accurately perceive emotional expressions.

Select Publications and Presentations

  • Geller, E.S. (2022). The Dissemination Challenge: Practical solutions to make a difference. Behavior and Social Issues, 31, 54–70.
  • Geller, E. S. (2022). Managing Behavior vs. Leading People: Evidence-Based Lessons To Achieve & Sustain an Injury-Free Workplace. Professional Safety, 67 (4): 30–37.
  • Geller, E. S. (2022). PSYCHOLOGICAL SAFETY. Professional Safety, 67(1), 18-20.
  • Geller, E. S. (2021). The Actively Caring for People Movement: A Synergistic Integration of Behaviorism, Humanism, and Positive Psychology. Behavior and Social Issues, 30, 566–586.
  • Geller, E. S. (2018). Life lessons from psychological science: Bringing out the best in yourself and others. New York: Worth Publishers.
  • Geller, E. S., & Geller, K. S. (2017). Actively caring for people's safety: Cultivating a brother's/sister's keeper culture. Park Ridge, Illinois: The American Society for Safety Engineers.
  • Geller, E. S. (2017). Actively caring for people in schools: How to make it happen. New York: Morgan James Publishers.
  • Geller, E. S., & Kipper, B. (2017). Actively caring for people policing: Building positive police/citizen relations. New York: Morgan James Publishers.
  • Geller, E. S. (Ed.) (2016). Applied psychology: Actively caring for people. New York: Cambridge University Press.
  • Geller, E. S., & Veazie, R. A. (2010). When No One's Watching: Living and leading self-motivation. Virginia Beach, VA: Coastal Training and Technologies Corporation.
  • Geller, E. S., & Veazie, R. A. (2009). The courage factor: Leading people-based culture change. Virginia Beach, VA: Coastal Training and Technologies Corporation.
  • Geller, E. S., & Johnson, D. (2008). People-based patient safety: Enriching your culture to prevent medical error. Virginia Beach, VA: Coastal Training and Technologies Corporation.
  • Geller, E. S. (2008). Leading people-based safety: Enriching your culture. Virginia Beach, VA: Coastal Training and Technologies Corporation.
  • Geller, E. S. (2005). People-based safety: The source. Virginia Beach, VA: Coastal Training and Technologies Corporation.

Join Us

We accept new applicants in the first week of each semester. The deadline for Fall 2023 applications is Monday, August 21st at 5PM. Please email completed applications to or 


The Educational Core of CABS is designed to provide undergraduates with opportunities to learn more about the theories, models, and research methods commonly used in applied research. It is also designed to ensure students become involved in all aspects of the research processes. Completion of the Educational Core involves several components.

Many students in the past have felt CABS is an excellent way to get hands-on experience in applied psychological research. Often CABS is a valuable addition to a student's curriculum vita and looks impressive on application forms for graduate school. Depending on the level of your involvement in CABS, several opportunities occur for students to be a co-author on a research paper or poster presentation given at one of the many professional conferences CABS attends throughout the semester. In addition to being a co-author, you might be the presenter at these conferences as well. Being a co-author on a research presentation at a professional conference is an excellent way to bolster one's resume and gain valuable presentation experience.

In addition to the more obvious advantages mentioned above, being involved in CABS allows you to gain invaluable knowledge and expertise about theories and procedures used in applied psychological research that have broad applications across many disciplines and applications. Often students use the experiences gained in CABS to develop and implement their own project ideas in other fields and academic domains.

Requirements for Completion

  • Attend a weekly Center meeting - Tuesday evening, 5:30pm - 7:00pm
  • A minimum of 39 hours for 1 credit hour
  • A minimum of 78 hours for 2 credit hours
  • A minimum of 117 hours for 3 credit hours


Recent Graduates

Dr. Geller will not be accepting Graduate Students for the Fall 2024 semester.