Have you ever wondered, why do people do what they do? How people make decisions, their actions and why do they behave the way they behave, as individuals, as groups, and as societies? How their personality, traits, biology, feelings, thinking, interactions, personal history, growth, development, are shaped up? Here is the science that helps us answer some of these questions.
Behavioral science is the study of multidisciplinary fields that attempts to understand the full extent of human behaviors and actions in some meaningful ways. The realm of this discipline is to understand the connections between the human mind and behaviors which requires knowledge from psychology, sociology, cultural anthropology, pediatrics & child development, neuroscience, economics and other applied factors arising out of the studies of other such subjects. Our personality and behavior are a product of the interaction of all or many of such factors and a key to our complex behavior, whether positive or negative, is to read, understand and decipher the role being played by various such factors.
“Behavioral science, any of various disciplines dealing with the subject of human actions, usually including the fields of sociology, social and cultural anthropology, psychology, and behavioral aspects of biology, economics, geography, law, psychiatry, and political science. The term gained currency in the 1950s in the United States.”
What Are Some Behavioral Science Examples?
Behavioral scientists study many types of health issues across many types of populations. After conducting their research and gathering data, they analyze and communicate their findings. Behavioral scientists search for a better understanding of many problems that are particularly relevant to public health professionals, including:
Let’s delve deeper- many factors influence our choices and decisions, as mentioned below. Behavioral Sciences experts study factors such as:
Psychological Influences: Studying motivation of an individual or a group can help determine what they choose to do or not to do. Unfulfilled needs, desires tend to drive/motivate people into actions and affect their behaviour. At the same time, self-belief in one’s ability to accomplish certain tasks also play a pivotal role in influencing behaviour and choices.
Behavioral influences: How individual chooses to behave is the outcome of multiple factors or behavioural influencers such as their values, personality, beliefs, attitudes, culture, risk assessment, potential for dissonance of the decision.
Biological Influences: It may appear that individual’s decisions are purely a function of psychological nature. But the research has found the link that individuals’ biology, physical characteristics such as age, sex, birth related complications and genetic makeup can influence behaviour, emotions, choices and decisions.
Societal Influences: Individuals have the propensity to confirm to group/societal norms, based on their own social roles or perceived affiliation, authority- which leads to influence/change their belief, behaviour, actions, choices, and decisions. This also depends upon the nurturing of the person during their childhood.
Broad Application of Behavioural Sciences:
Behavioural Sciences is the umbrella terms which encompasses multidisciplinary fields to addresses human actions at personal, professional/industrial/organisational and political level. To sum it up, any area that requires to understand the connection between the human mind and behaviour need to study behavioural sciences.
Application of Psychology- The American Psychological Association explains, the application of psychology to explore human development, growth, cognition, health and social behaviors.
Application of psychology helps achieve four goals:
- To provide explanation of people’s behaviors- at individual and group level, the normality and abnormality in their behaviors and help deriving insights into people’s actions and thoughts
- To provide explanation of why people think and react in a certain way and what influences their personalities and states of mind
- To help individuals by influencing/modifying positively their behaviours to improve their lives
- To predict how behaviours will unfold in the future in certain situations by observing past behaviours and patterns and thereby predicting how, why and when certain behaviours might reappear in actions in future
Application of Psychiatry- Psychiatry has the mandate of the prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of mental disorders. This field of science studies the connections between the mind and the brain (i.e. the connection between actions, feelings and physical/neural functioning). To the great extent Psychiatry also studies the effect of the environment on people with mental illnesses and help providing scientific interventions to healing.
Application of Sociology- Sociology helps understand how groups/societies develop, organize themselves, and function; studying the interactions between the people within a group/society at the micro level and the processes which maintain and help evolve group/society.
Sociology studies the various segments within a society to understand their group dynamics, such as its:
- Gender groups
- Age groups
- Social Movements
- Social Challenges
- Social Status
Application of Anthropology- The study of anthropology helps explore the social and cultural aspects in terms of the diversity of human societies such as-
- Social structures
- Belief system
- Rules of behavior
The intent of this field is to study holistically how culture’s social life can influence people’s behaviours. It uses a holistic strategy—linking local and global, past and present—to offer various approaches to understanding contemporary challenges, (Indiana University, 2021).
Application of Biology- Biology studies living beings, and the processes that keep them alive. The field studies animals, plants, organisms, the structure, growth, reproduction, and behavior of people. Biology deeply studies how genetics, adaptation, and environment affect living things and their actions and behaviours.
Application of Criminology- Criminology is the study of crime and criminal behavior, informed by principles of sociology and other non-legal fields, including psychology, economics, statistics, and anthropology, (Maryville University,2021).
Criminology analyzes how, why, and when crime happens. In addition to understanding the causes of crime, criminology also examines-
- Characteristics of people who commit crimes
- Reasons why people commit crimes
- Effects of crime on victims, communities and criminals themselves
- Methods for preventing crime
- Types and locations of crimes
- Governmental, individual, and societal reactions to crime
- Frequency of crimes
Application of Political Science- Political science studies the politics, the systems of governance and power and the systematic methods used by governments at all levels. This field studies what influences the relationship between a government and the citizens by considering societal, psychological and cultural factors.
Why do we need to study Behavioural Sciences?
1. Behavioral sciences experts study many types of public health issues across various fields and after their research, they analyze their data and based on their findings they provide interventions for some of the public health major concerns which leads to early detection and preventions. Some of the public health issues where behavioural sciences have been successful in providing holistic interventions such as,
- Juvenile behaviour, juvenile delinquency- early detection and preventions
- Child psychology, child, families and broken relationships
- Old age psychology- issues and rehabilitation
- Anxiety disorders
- Personality disorders
- Preventable diseases- Obesity, Mental health problems, lifestyle diseases, poor eating habits, etc.
- Substance abuse preventions
- Trauma, post-traumatic stress after an assault
- Disabilities, early detection and prevention
2. Behavioural science has received significant recognition after the 2008 financial crisis, the housing bubble which has impacted the globe and every area of society. The finance industry involves governments, corporates, societies and individuals and hence they can’t afford to take their decisions in silos, they need to have a holistic outlook, (The rise of behavioural science jobs, 2020).
Traditionally the financial industry comprises of economists and finance professionals and they rely on economic and financial models, missing out on contextual data. Greenspan, the former Federal Reserve Chairman, admitted his “shocked disbelief” that traditional economics had failed to predict or prevent such an event. Greenspan, the former Federal Reserve Chairman, admitted his “shocked disbelief” that traditional economics had failed to predict or prevent such an event. In contrast, behavioral scientists had already explained why and how human behaviors were likely to cause just such a housing bubble (see Dan Ariely’s Predictably Irrational, 2008). This costly global mishap revealed that traditional economists had been unwise in shutting their eyes to the irrationalities at play in human decision-making; the necessity of paying attention to behavioral science was thrown into sharp relief.
One should know that behaviour sciences experts offer holistic outlook with the help of contextual data to prevent such financial crisis. As we grapple with covid19 pandemic and the global economy is dealing with recession, we need to have more behavioural sciences-based interventions in the search of holistic solutions.The professional application of behavioural sciences is its application to industrial psychology which draws on theory and research from the wider areas of psychology, including cognition, social psychology, motivation, productivity, nudging, learning, sensation and perception, and psychometrics, Jr. Whitley, Kite, 2012. The below table draws application of psychology.
Other traditional areas of psychological practice include clinical, counseling, and school psychology, and psychologists have influence in applied areas, such as sports psychology, health education, and the legal system.
3. The political application of behavioural sciences involve influencing public policies. Behavioral science researches have been used to influence court decisions that affect social policy (Acker, 1990).
Acceptance and commitment therapy, the unique behavioural therapy, which is being used to improve outcomes of Restorative Justice mediations.