Behavioural science is an umbrella term for the studying of an organisms interaction with its environment. It is often used interchangably with the terms ‘psychology’ and ‘social sciences’. The interaction between an organism and it’s environment is also known as behaviour, or any action the person engages in. Behavioural science is also concerned with why an organism may chose to engage in one behaviour over another, a process known as decision making.
The science is mostly applied to human and animal organisms, but the science is theoretically broad enough to cover any living thing. Subsections of this science includes the various approaches to analysing and understanding behaviour. Some of these are listed below.
The applied behaviour approach is an environmental approach to understanding behaviour. It is formed on the basis that the environment influences behaviour, by either eliciting or evoking (similar to triggering) a behaviour. The environment then will provide a consequence to that behaviour, which either reinforces the behavior (increases the likelihood of that behaviour occuring again in the future) ot punishes the behaviour (decreases the likelihood of that behaviour occuring again in the future). For example. If you are hungry, you may then engage in food seeking behaviours, such as opening the fridge. If you then find something, you are more likely to engage in that behaviour again next time you are hungry. If you don’t, you are less likely to open the fridge next time you are hungry (unless you’ve gone shopping, that is…).
This approach involves the theory of the mind, and how the mind and various mental processes affect our decisions and behaviour. It draws from concepts within language, perception, emotion, memory and intelligence to explain why behaviour occurs.
Cognitive psychology and science is formed on the basis that humans are information processors, and that the mind mediates between information coming in, and subsequent responses. Over time, people form ‘schemas’, a network of beliefs and assumptions that develops from experience, which assists an individiual in processing information quickly and efficiently, leading to faster and more consistent responding.
The biological approach to behaviour takes into consideration the physiology and genetics of an organism and how that influences it’s behaviour. Many studies have shown that certain genes can give someone a predisposition to various characterists. Various parts of the brain are shown to be active when engaging in various behaviours during an electroencrphalogram (EEG). The proportions of different neurotransmitters (brain chemicals) have been associated with different moods/feelings.
However, although most psychologists believe that biological factors have some part to play in someone’s behavioural presentation, it is interactions with the environment that bring out certain behaviours. Otherwise, identical twins are likely the behave in exactly the same way, which just is not the case.
Anthropology and social psychology look to society as a whole, and how human behaviour is influenced by other people. This study involves how certain societal roles can impact others (e.g. leaders or authority figures), how we can behave in certain ways based on how we identify ourselves, others and our place in society, how we can learn from other people’s behaviour and how simply the presence of others can infliuence our behaviour.
Behavioural Science can be applied to various areas of study, such as the study of law and criminal behaviour, behavioural economics, organisational or consumer behaviours, mental healh, psychiatry and medicene, political and the effects of governmental policy on humans, as well as animal behaviour and training, among many others.
This study is typical conducted through scientific experimentation, such as randomised controlled trials and single case studies. This is the manipulation of on particular variable and the observation of it’s affect on another variable. For example, we can study the affect a certain medication has on human behaviour or emotion. There are also observational and correlational methods, which involve seeing links between two different variables. As there is typically no experimental control, we are unable to infer causation with these types of methods, however, due to several other interferring variables (known as extraneous variables) that may also be influencing the variable(s) we are observing.
My career, and therefore this blog, focuses on the applied approach to behaviour, Applied Behaviour Analysis, and its application to various areas of study, specifically including business and marketing, the study of mental health diagnoses, intellectual disabilities and autism, and the study of criminal behaviour. However, it is important to note that taking just one approach to behaviour is often shortsighted, and therefore good scientific practitioners should not focus solely on one approach. As a result, other approaches will often be employed throughout the content on this website and within my general practise.