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Behavioural sciences

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The behavioural sciences explore the cognitive processes within organisms and the behavioural interactions between organisms in the natural world. It involves the systematic analysis and investigation of human and animal behaviour through naturalistic observation, controlled scientific experimentation and mathematical modeling. It attempts to accomplish legitimate, objective conclusions through rigorous formulations and observation.[1] Examples of behavioural sciences include psychology, psychobiology, criminology, anthropology, sociology, economics, and cognitive science. Generally, behavioural science primarily seeks to generalise about human behaviour as it relates to society and its impact on society as a whole.[2]

Behavioural Science Disciplines[edit]

Behavioral science is composed of three different disciplines of social science and those disciplines are anthropology, psychology, and sociology. Behavioral science is one of the only disciplines that have all three different disciplines all in one.[3] Behavioral science focuses on human behavior by using some of the great findings by anthropologists, psychologists, and sociologists. Behavioral scientists use many different techniques that were founded by the three different disciplines of social science and all of this helps the study of human behavior. Human behavior is an ever growing topic and it is one that is not fully understood yet. Behavioral science aims to get to the bottom of human behavior and come to grips with everything that it sets out to achieve.[4]


Behavioural sciences include two broad categories: neural – Information sciences and social – Relational sciences.

Information processing sciences deal with information processing of stimuli from the social environment by cognitive entities in order to engage in decision making, social judgment and social perception for individual functioning and survival of organism in a social environment. These include psychology, cognitive science, behaviour analysis, psychobiology, neural networks, social cognition, social psychology, semantic networks, ethology, and social neuroscience.[5]

On the other hand, relational sciences deal with relationships, interaction, communication networks, associations and relational strategies or dynamics between organisms or cognitive entities in a social system. These include fields like sociological social psychology, social networks, dynamic network analysis, agent-based model, behaviour analysis, and microsimulation.


Sociology involves the scientific examination of society, encompassing the study of culture, social relationships, and interactions. It includes the research and analysis of social patterns and processes, exploring the impact of the social world on our thoughts, emotions, and behaviors. The primary focus of sociology is to comprehend the dynamics of society. With this insight, people are in a better position to influence and navigate through society, also gaining a deeper understanding of themselves in the process. This knowledge also plays a crucial role in decision-making.[6]

Coined by Auguste Comte in the 1830s, the term sociology originally referred to a constructed science that would unify all knowledge about human activity. The discipline emerged as a response to societal changes. There were many changes and advancements made in Western Europe during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Changes like the invention of the steam engine would then alter the way in which society functioned. Starting with Auguste Comte, today sociology is studied all around the world.[6]


The focus and research methods used in Anthropology provide the Behavioral Sciences with a more comprehensive understanding of the cultural, environmental, and biological factors that influence human behavior. Ethnography is a research method developed by anthropologists that involves the study of the social behaviors of a people in their own environment using firsthand observations, interviews, and observer participation. The data collected by using the ethnographic method is primarily qualitative, but rich in context providing the perspective of those within the group.[7]

Anthropologists now perform field research in the digital realm. Society’s behaviors are data tracked digitally by entities in areas that include government, healthcare, and retail. Ruckenstein and Schull referred to this phenomenon as the datafication of the world. With the rise of fitness and mobile devices, anthropologists can study behavior by collecting substantial amounts of quantifiable data and performing data analysis from individuals and data collection sites.[8]

Anthropologists have adopted the use of algorithms to mine data patterns related to behavior from large data sets. They study activities of users of social media sites to understand how like-minded individuals using these sites form new subgroups. Anthropologists are looking forward to one day enlisting the help of Artificial intelligence (AI) to perform anthropological research. Currently, AI does not have the capability to fully understand how to analyze data using an anthropological perspective.[9]


A lot of people are unaware of how vast the concept of behavioral science is, with psychology being just one of its many branches. The theory of behavioral psychology describes how an individual's environment can alter their thoughts and behavior. Several observations have been made to test the validity of this idea, and the results show that many individuals alter their behavior depending on both their surroundings and who they are with. The mind modifies its thought processes in response to seemingly insignificant changes, yet they are not.  Psychology is, as we all know, the study of the mind and behavior.

John A. Mills has helped us grasp the complexity of behaviorism and provided us with an understanding of cognitive psychology, which explains how individual minds function. These insights have influenced our understanding of psychology in behavioral science. We now know that while individual behaviors may vary, they all seem to lead to the same result. According to Mills, this behaviorism was first tested on animals and later on humans, with essentially the same results of changing based on environmental changes. Additionally, he provided a mother-daughter connection example in this book that encapsulates psychology in action. We need to develop a reciprocal relationship in order for that trustworthy relationship to flourish. Given this example, it is clear that, as we develop as people, we require the assurance and ongoing development of every relationship we come into contact with.

Because the nature of the mind is ever-evolving, it is crucial to fully comprehend the current study on the relationship between behavioral science and psychology.

Future of Behavioral Science[edit]

As one cannot entirely predict the precise future of science, Skinner has shined some light onto no predictable possible future direction, but there has been research that argues. Chance[10] promoted behavior science and technology as a means of enhancing societal human development, also solving global and cultural issues. Gradually, this optimism had given way to the awareness that behavior science was actually demonstrating how unlikely it was that such issues would be resolved in time to prevent a host of potential catastrophes. Chance identified possible behavioral occurrences that seem to get in the way of large-scale, efficiently executed problem-solving behaviors.[11]

Robila[12] explains how using modern technology to study and understand behavioral patterns on a greater scale, such as artificial intelligence, machine learning, and greater data has a future in brightening up behavioral science assistance/ research. Creating cutting-edge therapies and interventions with immersive technology like virtual reality/ AI would also be beneficial to behavioral science future(s). These concepts are only a hint of the many paths behavioral science may take in the future.


Insights from several pure disciplines across behavioural sciences are explored by various applied disciplines and practiced in the context of everyday life and business.[13]

Consumer behaviour, for instance, is the study of the decision making process consumers make when purchasing goods or services. It studies the way consumers recognise problems and discover solutions. Behavioural science is applied in this study by examining the patterns consumers make when making purchases, the factors that influenced those decisions, and how to take advantage of these patterns.

Organisational behaviour is the application of behavioural science in a business setting. It studies what motivates employees, how to make them work more effectively, what influences this behaviour, and how to use these patterns in order to achieve the company's goals. Managers often use organisational behaviour to better lead their employees.

Using insights from psychology and economics, behavioural science can be leveraged to understand how individuals make decisions regarding their health and ultimately reduce disease burden through interventions such as loss aversion, framing, defaults, nudges, and more.

Other applied disciplines of behavioural science include operations research and media psychology.

Differentiation from social sciences[edit]

The terms behavioural sciences and social sciences are interconnected fields[14] that both study systematic processes of behaviour, but they differ on their level of scientific analysis for various dimensions of behaviour.[15]

Behavioural sciences abstract empirical data to investigate the decision process and communication strategies within and between organisms in a social system. This characteristically involves fields like psychology, social neuroscience, ethology, and cognitive science. In contrast, social sciences provide a perceptive framework to study the processes of a social system through impacts of a social organisation on the structural adjustment of the individual and of groups. They typically include fields like sociology, economics, public health, anthropology, demography, and political science.[1]

Many subfields of these disciplines test the boundaries between behavioural and social sciences. For example, political psychology and behavioural economics use behavioural approaches, despite the predominant focus on systemic and institutional factors in the broader fields of political science and economics.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Klemke, E. D., Hollinger, R., and Kline, A. D., (1980), Introduction to the book in 'Introductory Readings in the Philosophy of Science': Buffalo, New York, Prometheus Books p 11-12
  2. ^ "Definition of BEHAVIORAL SCIENCE". www.merriam-webster.com. Retrieved 19 March 2018.
  3. ^ Nehnevajsa, Jiri; Festinger, Leon; Katz, Daniel (April 1954). "Research Methods in the Behavioral Sciences". American Sociological Review. 19 (2): 230. doi:10.2307/2088409. ISSN 0003-1224. JSTOR 2088409.
  4. ^ Whitley, Jr., Bernard E.; Kite, Mary E. (2012-11-12). Principles of Research in Behavioral Science. doi:10.4324/9780203085219. ISBN 9780203085219.
  5. ^ "What are behavioral sciences? definition and meaning". BusinessDictionary.com. Archived from the original on 15 October 2018. Retrieved 23 December 2017.
  6. ^ a b The Field of Sociology. An Introduction to Sociology. (n.d.). https://www.asanet.org/wp-content/uploads/savvy/introtosociology/Documents/Field%20of%20sociology033108.htm Retrieved 2023-12-07.
  7. ^ Brown, Nina; McIlwraith, Thomas; González, Laura Tubelle de (2020-01-01). Perspectives: An Open Introduction to Cultural Anthropology, 2nd Edition. The American Anthropological Association.
  8. ^ Ruckenstein, Minna; Schüll, Natasha Dow (2017-10-23). "The Datafication of Health". Annual Review of Anthropology. 46 (1): 261–278. doi:10.1146/annurev-anthro-102116-041244. ISSN 0084-6570.
  9. ^ Hillier, Katie (2023-05-08). "Digital Anthropology Meets Data Science". Anthropology News. Retrieved 2023-12-07.
  10. ^ Chance, Paul (2007-10-01). "The ultimate challenge: Prove B. F. Skinner wrong". The Behavior Analyst. 30 (2): 153–160. doi:10.1007/BF03392152. ISSN 2196-8918. PMC 2203635. PMID 22478494.
  11. ^ Leigland, Sam (2011-10-01). "Beyond freedom and dignity at 40: Comments on behavioral science, the future, and chance (2007)". The Behavior Analyst. 34 (2): 283–295. doi:10.1007/BF03392258. ISSN 2196-8918. PMC 3211387. PMID 22532749.
  12. ^ Robila, Mihaela; Robila, Stefan A. (2020-10-01). "Applications of Artificial Intelligence Methodologies to Behavioral and Social Sciences". Journal of Child and Family Studies. 29 (10): 2954–2966. doi:10.1007/s10826-019-01689-x. ISSN 1573-2843.
  13. ^ Hallsworth, Michael (2023). "A manifesto for applying behavioural science". Nature Human Behaviour. 7 (3): 310–322. doi:10.1038/s41562-023-01555-3. PMID 36941468.
  14. ^ Dristi, Adhikari (2016). "Exploring the Differences Between Social and Behavioral Science". Behavioral Development Bulletin. 21 (2): 128–135. doi:10.1037/bdb0000029.
  15. ^ "Definition of BEHAVIOURAL SCIENCE". www.Merriam-Webster.com. Retrieved 23 December 2017.

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