Part of the Psychology of Human Behavior
Salepage : Part of the Psychology of Human Behavior
Academic and business researchers are working together to gain a better knowledge of how humans act, make decisions, plan, and remember. Wearable sensor technology advancements, as well as processes for multi-modal data collecting and processing, have recently enabled researchers all around the world to unlock hitherto undisclosed mysteries of the human brain and mind.
Still, as Makeig and colleagues (2009) note, the most important task is to conduct systematic observations and interpretations of how scattered brain processes enable our natural, dynamic, and always changing behavior and cognition.
We are all active agents, always seeking to meet physiological demands and mental wants within complicated and ever-changing environments while engaging with our surrounds. Brain structures that facilitate cognitive processes aimed at optimizing outcomes for any of our body-based actions have developed.
Please keep in mind that this essay is an extract from our Human Behavior Guide. You may receive your free copy below and learn even more about human behavior.
So, just what is behavior?
Human behavior, according to scientific studies, is a complex interaction of three components: actions, cognition, and emotions.
Does that seem complicated? Let’s take them one at a time.
Behavior is defined by actions.
An action is anything that can be seen with the naked eye or measured by physiological sensors. Consider an action to be an initiation or transition from one state to another; for example, on a movie set, the director screams “action” to begin filming the next scene.
Behavioral acts can occur on a variety of time scales, from muscle activation to sweat gland activity, food consumption, or sleep.
Cognitions are actions.
Cognitions are both spoken and nonverbal ideas and mental pictures that you carry with you. “I need to remember to purchase groceries,” or “I’d want to know what she thinks of me,” are examples of verbal cognitions. Nonverbal cognition, on the other hand, may be picturing how your property would appear after renovating.
Cognitions include skills and information, such as understanding how to use tools effectively (without injuring yourself), singing karaoke songs, or remembering the color of Marty McFly’s jacket in “Back to the Future” (it’s red).
Emotions are manifestations of behavior.
An emotion is commonly defined as any relatively brief conscious experience characterized by high mental activity and a feeling that is not regarded as the consequence of thinking or understanding. This is generally expressed on a scale ranging from positive (pleasurable) to negative (unpleasant).
Other characteristics of physiology that indicate emotional processing, such as increased heart rate or breathing rate due to greater arousal, are frequently concealed from view. Emotions, like cognitions, cannot be directly witnessed. They may only be deduced indirectly by measuring arousal with ECG, galvanic skin response (GSR), respiration sensors, or self-reported metrics, for example.
Everything is linked.
Actions, cognitions, and emotions do not exist in isolation; their right interplay allows you to observe the world around you, listen to your inner desires, and behave appropriately to individuals in your environment. However, it is difficult to determine what is cause and effect – turning your head (activity) and seeing a familiar face may result in a rapid surge of excitement (feeling) accompanied by an internal realization (cognition):
Emotion (joy) + cognition (“hey, there’s Peter!”) = action
In some circumstances, the order of cause and effect may be reversed: You decide to go for a walk to clear your thoughts since you are upset (emotion) and dwelling on relationship concerns (cognitive) (action).
Sadness + cognition (“I should take a stroll”) = action
What You Should Know About…
Humans are active sensory impression consumers.
You actively move your body to fulfill cognitive objectives and wants, as well as to enter (or exit) happy (or negative) emotional states. In other words, whereas intellect and emotion cannot be directly witnessed, they undoubtedly influence the performance of visible action. For example, you can move your body to fulfill cognitive objectives and wants, or to enter (or exit) happy (or negative) emotional states.
Cognitions are situational and time-dependent.
New knowledge is modified, amalgamated, and incorporated into your pre-existing cognitive framework. This enables you to adjust to and forecast how your activities in the present environment may impact events. When you decide to do anything, you do it in a timely, environmentally and situationally suitable manner. To put it another way, your cognitive system must balance the dynamic interaction of flexibility and stability.
The former is critical because you must dynamically link reactions to stimuli based on intents and instructions. This enables you to respond to the same stimuli in nearly limitless ways. Stability, on the other hand, is critical for sustaining long-term stimulus-response associations and responding consistently to comparable stimuli.
Body-based imagination and abstract cognition
Even abstract cognitions (those that do not involve direct physical contact with the world) are body-based. Imagining limb motions activates the same brain locations as actually doing the movements. When you practice material in working memory, you stimulate the same brain regions that are employed for speech perception and production (Wilson, 2001).
Behavior and Learning
When discussing behavior, we must analyze how it is acquired. Any process of acquiring new skills and information, preferences, attitudes and assessments, social standards and normative concerns is referred to as learning.
You’ve probably heard of the “nature vs. nurture” issue – in the past, there was a lot of disagreement about whether behavior was purely determined by genetic predispositions (nature) or environmental circumstances (nurture) (nurture).
It’s no longer an either/or situation. There is just too much evidence indicating the effect of both nature and nurture – behavior is thought to be established by the interaction of both variables.
Current theoretical frameworks also stress the agent’s active participation in learning new skills and information. You may evolve and transform yourself throughout your life through continuous skill acquisition, which can have an influence on a neurological level. Consider it as putting neuroscientific mechanisms behind the expression “practice makes perfect.”
Classical conditioning is a learning method in which stimulus-response pairings are learnt; for example, viewing nice food usually causes salivation (yummy!). Food is the unconditioned stimulus, while salivation is the unconditioned reaction.
Unconditioned stimuli results in an unconditioned reaction.
Seeing food causes salivation.
A novel stimulus-response pairing is learnt when food is consistently accompanied by a (previously) neutral stimulus, such as ringing a bell.
conditioned stimulus + unconditioned stimulus = conditioned reaction
Hearing the bell + seeing food = salivation
The bell becomes a conditioned stimulus, powerful enough to cause salivation even in the absence of actual food.
reaction to conditioned stimuli
hearing the bell = salivation
This learning process, known as generalization, was initially researched by Ivan Pavlov and colleagues (1927) through studies with dogs, which is why classical conditioning is also known as Pavlovian conditioning.
Classical conditioning is now one of the most well-known basic learning processes.
Conditioning in Action
The term “operant conditioning,” also known as “instrumental conditioning,” refers to a kind of learning in which the strength of an action is altered by the consequences (reward or punishment) communicated by the previous stimuli.
Environmental stimuli regulate behavior in both operant and classical conditioning, but they differ in nature. Behavior is regulated by stimuli that are present when a behavior is rewarded or penalized in operant conditioning.
B.F. Skinner created the term “operant conditioning.” Skinner, as a behaviorist, believed that it was unnecessary to examine interior ideas and motivations in order to explain behavior. Instead, he proposed simply considering external, visible reasons of human behavior.
Acts that result in desired consequences are more likely to be repeated, whereas actions that result in negative outcomes are less likely to be repeated, according to Skinner. In this sense, operant conditioning is based on a pretty basic premise: behavior that is reinforced is reinforced and is more likely to occur again in the future.
The following are the basic ideas of operant conditioning:
When a behavior is rewarding, positive reinforcement (also known as reinforcement) happens, increasing the frequency of that activity.
When a behavior is followed by the absence of an unpleasant stimulus, negative reinforcement (escape) occurs, increasing the frequency of the activity.
Punishment happens when a behavior is followed by an adverse input, leading that behavior to diminish.
When a conduct is followed by the loss of a rewarding stimulus, a penalty ensues.
Extinction happens when a previously rewarded behavior is no longer effective.
These learning theories provide direction for understanding how humans receive knowledge about the world. The way we learn is evaluated both emotionally and physically. This will have an impact on how we act and carry out behaviors in the future – what we pay attention to and how we feel about it.
Behavior and Decisions
While behavior is learned, whether the acting individual decides to do an action or refrain from performing one is determined by the related incentives, rewards, and dangers (“if Peter gets penalized for doing something, I surely won’t do it!”).
But what are the variables influencing our decisions? Ideas like social learning theory give a foundation, but one of the most famous psychological theories regarding decision-making originated in an economics magazine.
Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky released a paper in 1979 introducing the Prospect Theory, a theoretical framework. This set the groundwork for Kahneman’s later ideas and research on human behavior, which were described in his best-selling book “Thinking, Fast and Slow.”
System 1 and System 2 are two distinct systems.
Kahneman’s ideas also addressed how humans process information. He argued that there are two systems that govern how we make decisions: System 1 (quick but incorrect) and System 2 (slow but more accurate).
According to the hypothesis, all of our daily decisions, from buying our morning coffee to choosing a job, are made in one of these two ways. Depending on the conditions, we will use various approaches.
Emotions and decision-making
Emotions influence human behavior and decision-making in subtle ways that we may not always understand. After making an emotionally charged decision, we prefer to stick with the flawed thinking behind it, and “a modest incidental emotion in decision-making can survive longer than the emotional experience itself,” as Andrade and Ariely point out (2009).
Researchers who wanted to explore how pleasant sentiments may alter willingness to help finished an example of mood manipulation affecting decision making.
To investigate their question, they placed a quarter (25ct) in a phone booth (yep, these things existed!) and waited for passers-by to come upon the coin. An actor acting on the psychologist’s behalf intervened, offering to take an important phone call. Participants in the study who discovered the coin were substantially happier, allowing the confederate to accept the call, but those who did not discover the coin were unaffected and were more likely to say no (Isen & Levin, 1972).
How to Begin Human Behavior Research
Human behavior research investigates how and why individuals behave the way they do. However, as you have seen in previous parts, human behavior is highly complicated since it is impacted, modified, and moulded by a variety of circumstances, many of which are unnoticed by the individual: overt or covert, rational or illogical, voluntary or involuntary.
Behavior: aware vs. unconscious
Consciousness is a level of consciousness that allows you to be aware of your own thoughts and sensations as well as perceive and absorb information from your environment.
Unconscious mechanisms govern a large portion of our behaviour. There is a lot of concealed information, just like an iceberg, and only portion of it is visible with the human eye.
Open versus covert conduct
Overt behavior refers to any part of conduct that is visible, such as bodily motions or (inter-)actions. Furthermore, physiological processes such as flushing, facial emotions, or pupil dilation, while minor, might nevertheless be ignored. Covert processes are unseen thoughts (cognition), emotions (emotion), or responses. Subtle changes in bodily processes, for example, are invisible to the observer.
In this situation, bio- or physiological sensors are utilized to supplement observation with quantitative data, as they expose previously hidden activities. EEG, MEG, fMRI, and fNIRS all monitor physiological processes that reflect covert behavior, according to this description.
Irrational vs logical conduct
Any action, emotion, or cognition that is related to, influenced by, or led by reason is considered rational conduct. Irrational conduct, on the other hand, refers to activities that are not objectively reasonable.
Patients with phobias frequently describe a knowledge that their thoughts and anxieties are illogical (“I know the spider can’t hurt me”), yet they nonetheless can’t resist the temptation to respond in a specific way.
Behavior that is voluntary vs. involuntary
Voluntary activities are determined by your preferences and decisions. In contrast, involuntary acts are defined as any action taken without intent or performed despite efforts to prevent it. Patients are subjected to challenging circumstances, often known as flooding, in cognitive-behavioral treatment, such as spiders, social exposition, or a transatlantic aircraft flight.
Many of our actions appear to be free, logical, overt, and aware, but they are simply the tip of the iceberg in terms of typical human behavior. Our subconscious guides the majority of our activities, which are automatic and possibly nonsensical. Examining the hidden actions that emerge as a result is one method to gain access to this other side of behavior.
Human Behavior Evaluation
Academic and commercial researchers have created elaborate approaches for collecting data indicative of personality characteristics, cognitive-affective states, and problem solving strategies in order to characterize and analyze human behavior.
Specific theories concerning stimulus-response interactions can be clarified using experimental settings. Scientists’ research approaches may be divided into two categories: qualitative and quantitative processes.
Non-numerical insights are gathered in qualitative investigations, for example, by examining diary entries, utilizing open questionnaires, unstructured interviews, or observations. Rather of counting replies and quantitatively evaluating data, qualitative field / usability studies, for example, seek to understand how respondents see the environment and why people behave in a particular manner.
Quantitative studies use numbers to describe and classify human behavior using statistical, mathematical, or computer methodologies. Structured surveys, tests, and observations with specialized coding schemes are examples of quantitative approaches. Physiological measures from EEG, EMG, ECG, GSR, and other sensors can generate quantitative data, allowing researchers to convert behavioral observations into discrete numbers and statistical outputs.
Observation of Behavior
Behavioral observation is one of the oldest strategies for studying human behavior in psychology. Researchers either conduct field studies on people in their natural environments or bring individuals or groups to the laboratory.
Field observations offer various advantages. When viewed at home, school, or work, participants are often more relaxed and less self-conscious. Everything is known to them, allowing for relatively unfiltered observation of behavior that is rooted in the individual’s or group’s natural environment.
There is always the potential of distraction, such as noisy neighbors or phones ringing. Field observations are an excellent place to begin any behavioral research investigation. Sitting and watching people may provide a wealth of information if you focus on a certain subject or feature of behavior.
In contrast, laboratory observation provides for far more experimental control. You may eliminate any undesirable elements and entirely prohibit smart phones, manage the room layout, and ensure that everything is ready for best recording settings (correct lighting conditions, ensuring a quiet environment, and so on).
To put respondents at ease and encourage more natural behavior, you can establish near-realistic laboratory conditions, such as a normal family living room, office area, or creative zone.
Questionnaires and surveys
Surveys and questionnaires are a good way to collect your respondents’ self-reported habits and skills, mental or emotional states, or personality profiles. However, surveys are usually fleeting pictures that capture just a subset of a person’s behavior, thoughts, and feelings.
Surveys and surveys generally assess what Kahneman refers to as system 2 processes – slow and deliberate mental processes. Other approaches that identify rapid physiological changes can quantify System 1 processes (quick and automatic thinking).
Focus groups in market research often consist of a small group of respondents (approximately 4-15) gathered with a moderator to discuss views and attitudes regarding a product, service, concept, advertisement, idea, or packaging. Focus groups are qualitative tools since their objective is to talk in groups rather than reach individual judgments.
What are the advantages and disadvantages of a product, where may it be improved, and who are the best target populations? A focus group may address all of these issues.
Aside from Surveys and Focus Groups
While surveys and focus groups can be useful in studying our conscious thoughts and feelings, human behavior is more complex than meets the eye. The subconscious mind decides how our conduct is eventually carried out, and standard approaches like as surveys and focus groups can only provide a tiny portion of that information.
According to some psychologists, the subconscious influences up to 90% of our activities. While the other 10% is significant, it is evident that there is plenty to be gained by going beyond what standard techniques test.
Modern techniques try to study the subconscious’s secret and unknown terrain by measuring dependable outputs that reveal more information about what someone is truly thinking.
In addition to watching overt behavior, biosensors and measuring devices may be used to better understand how the mind, brain, and body interact.
Biosensors provide access to processes that would otherwise be concealed. These generally concealed (at least to the spectator) processes can reveal information about the mental processes that Daniel Kahneman refers to as belonging to System 1 – rapid and mostly emotive reactions. These are rapid processes that underpin a major percentage of human decision-making and subsequent behavior.
Above and beyond any other experimental approach, eye tracking provides tremendous insights into visual attention. While eye tracking is often used to monitor where we focus our eye movements at a given time, it also records pupil dilation.
Electroencephalography (EEG) is a neuroimaging method that uses sensors (electrodes) and amplifier circuits to measure electrical activity generated by the brain from the scalp surface. It is suitable for evaluating brain activity related to perception, cognition, and emotion.
EEG provides the best time resolution of any biosensor, offering significant insights into sub-second brain dynamics of engagement, motivation, frustration, cognitive effort, and additional metrics linked with stimulus processing, action preparation, and execution.
The diffusion of near-infrared light by human skull, scalp, and brain tissue is recorded using functional Near-Infrared Spectroscopy (fNIRS), allowing researchers to monitor cerebral blood flow in specific brain areas. While fNIRS is still a relatively new technology, it has already shown to be a very useful tool in human behavior research.
Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) is the method of choice when it comes to achieving high spatial resolution in brain imaging. MRI may be utilized to obtain high spatial precision structural scans that represent an accurate and very exact 3D depiction of the respondent’s brain.
Functional MRI (fMRI) can be used to investigate dynamic changes in the brain. The scanner use magnetic fields and radio frequencies to assess variations in oxygenated and deoxygenated blood flow in specific brain areas, which may subsequently be linked to cognitive functions.
The amount of sweat secreted by sweat glands in our skin is reflected by electrodermal activity (EDA), also known as galvanic skin response (GSR). Sweating causes an increase in skin conductivity. We “sweat emotionally” when we are stimulated emotionally, especially on our forehead, hands, and feet. Skin conductance, like pupil dilation, is controlled unconsciously, providing remarkable insights into a person’s unfiltered, impartial emotional arousal.
Because facial expressions are linked to our inner emotions, and emotions govern so much of our behavior, researching facial expressions provides insight into why we do what we do.
Facial expression analysis is a non-intrusive approach that uses a camera in front of the responder to analyze head position and orientation, micro-expressions (such as raising the brows or expanding the lips), and global facial expressions of fundamental emotions (joy, rage, surprise, etc.). Facial data may be used to validate measurements of engagement, effort, and tiredness.
Electromyographic (EMG) sensors measure the electric energy created by facial, hand, or finger motions, among other things. EMG can be used to detect modest activation patterns associated with consciously directed hand/finger motions (startle reflex). Facial EMG may also be used to track smiles and frowns to determine emotional valence.
Monitor heart rate or pulse using electrocardiography (ECG) electrodes or optical sensors (Photoplethysmogram; PPG) to get insight into respondents’ physical condition, anxiety and stress levels (arousal), and how changes in physiological state affect their behaviors and decisions.
How to assemble it
While biosensor and imaging approaches provide unmatched insight into an individual’s thoughts, feelings, and emotions, the best way to fully comprehend someone is to supplement the measures with more traditional methods such as surveys and focus groups.
We may understand both elements of what Kahneman outlined as System 1 and System 2 – both quick, emotionally driven judgments and slow, reasoned decisions – by combining the metrics. Using the insights provided by both research methods provides a comprehensive picture of an individual’s thoughts and behaviors.
The grid below provides an overview of the two ways and demonstrates how utilizing both may answer a wide range of queries.
Metrics for Human Behavior
Metrics are obtained from observation or sensor data, and they represent the cognitive-affective processes that underpin overt and covert behaviors. They are often recovered with the use of computer-based signal pre-processing methods and statistics. Following are descriptions of the most essential metrics in human behavior research.
Your face is one of the most telling indicators of emotional processing. Facial electromyography (fEMG) sensors placed on specific facial muscles or video-based facial expression analysis procedures can be used to monitor facial expressions. The Facial Action Coding System (FACS), developed primarily by Paul Ekman, is a highly refined manual observation technique. Trained coders and sophisticated software can assess the level of activation of modular Action Units (AU), which represent very brief and subtle facial expressions lasting up to a half-second.
Based on the sub-millisecond changes in muscular activation patterns or changes in global facial features (lifting an eyebrow, frowning, lifting up the corners of the mouth), behavioral researchers infer universal emotional states such as joy, anger, surprise, fear, contempt, disgust, sadness or confusion.
While facial expressions can provide insights into the general direction of an emotional response (positive – negative), they cannot tell the intensity of the felt emotion as described by means of arousal. Arousal refers to the physiological and psychological state of being responsive to stimuli and is relevant for any kind of regulation of consciousness, attention and information processing.
The human arousal system is considered to comprise several different but heavily interconnected neural systems in the brainstem and cortex.
Physiological arousal and emotional valence can be thought of as taking place on a scale, in which both interact with each other. The intensity of arousal therefore influences the intensity of emotion. Capturing data about both of these processes can provide more information about an individual and their behavior.
Although all of these processes are taking place on the microscopic level and cannot be observed with the eye, arousal can be measured by using several psychphysiological methods such as eye tracking, EEG, GSR, ECG, respiration, and more.
Workload and cognitive load
Decisions are often made under several constraints (with respect to time, space and resources), and there is obviously a threshold in how much information you can take into consideration. Working memory represents the cognitive system responsible for transient holding and processing of information, and human cognitive-behavioral research has a particular interest in this aspect due to its crucial role in the decision-making process.
The total amount of mental effort being used in working memory is typically referred to as cognitive load.
Perception and attention
Do stimuli “pop out” and elicit our interest? Do we watch a movie clip or an advertisement because it is visually captivating? For cognitive-behavioral scientists it is highly relevant to determine the level of saliency of stimuli, and whether or not it captures our attention. Saliency detection is considered to be a key attentional mechanism that facilitates learning and survival. It enables us to focus our limited perceptual and cognitive resources on the most pertinent subset of the available sensory data.
Motivation and engagement
Another metric relevant for cognitive-behavioral scientists is motivation, sometimes referred to as action motivation. It describes the drive for approaching/avoiding actions, objects and stimuli.
Shopping behavior is primarily driven by engagement and the underlying motivation to buy a product, therefore it would be beneficial to infer one’s motivation already during the initial exposure with an item. EEG experiments have provided rich evidence for certain brain activation patterns reflecting increased or decreased motivational states.
Besides EEG, one’s level of attention can be determined based on eye tracking, both in lab settings as well as in real world environments. Remote eye trackers are mounted in front of a computer or TV screen and record the respondents’ gaze position on screen.
Eye tracking glasses are the optimal choice for monitoring attentional changes in freely moving subjects, allowing you to extract measures of attention in real world environments such as in-store shopping or package testing scenarios.
Fields of Application
Neuromarketing and consumer neuroscience
There is no doubt about it: assessing consumer preferences and communicating persuasively are key components of marketing. While self-reports and questionnaires may be good instruments for gaining insights into respondents’ attitudes and awareness, they may be restricted in capturing emotional reactions that are not influenced by self-knowledge or social desirability.
Because traditional approaches like as surveys and focus groups only capture a portion of our overt, aware activity, biosensors provide a mechanism to bridge that gap.
Psychologists investigate how we react emotionally to external and internal events, how we perceive ourselves and others, and how we behave. Researchers can measure and change stimulus features (color, shape, time of presentation) and social expectations in systematic experiments to assess how personality traits and individual learning histories influence emotional, cognitive, and perceptual processing.
Advertising and media testing
Individual respondents or focus groups can be exposed to TV advertising, trailers, and full-length pilots while their behavioral responses are monitored, for example, via facial expression analysis, in media research. Identifying situations where emotional responses were expected but the viewers just didn’t “get it” is critical to improving the TV program’s attractiveness. Facial expression analysis may also be utilized to identify critical frames that result in the most severe facial expressions, indicating when the program was truly effective.
Website and software user interface design
Handling software and browsing websites should ideally be a pleasurable experience, with annoyance and misunderstanding reduced to a minimum. Monitoring user behavior, such as scrolling or click-ratios, as well as facial expressions, as testers explore websites or software dialogs, can give insights into the targeted target group’s emotional contentment.
Eye tracking is a particularly useful technology because it allows you to pinpoint exactly what the user is looking at while using the website. When combined with other measures, it provides insight into what caused them to feel positive or negative during the interaction.
Human behavior is a multi-faceted and dynamic field of study, requiring many points of interrogation to yield insights. Learning processes lay the foundation for determining many of our behaviors, although we are constantly changing in response to our environment. Understanding our behaviors is a tricky task, but one that we are getting ever closer to accomplishing. Traditional methods of study have taught us many things, and now biosenors can lead the way.
I hope you’ve enjoyed reading this snippet from our Complete Pocket Guide to Human Behavior – if you’d like to learn even more, and become a true expert in human behavior, then download our free guide below!