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Behavioral science

The field of behavioural science investigates how emotions, our surroundings, and social influences shape our decisions.

Behavioral science

What is Behavioral science?

The study of human behavior is the focus of behavioral science, also referred to as behavioral economics. 

It incorporates a variety of academic disciplines, such as cognitive neuroscience, psychology, and economics, as well as the behavioral facets of biology, law, psychiatry, and political science.

The study of human behavior, specifically how people make decisions in the real world, is known as behavioral science.

Behavioral science focuses on how emotions, the environment, and social factors affect our decisions. Behavior science focuses on how heuristics, biases, and framing affect our ability to make “rational” decisions.

The methodologies created in the social sciences are heavily used in behavioral science, mainly when conducting randomized control trial experiments that enable us to conclude particular mechanisms that underlie human behavior. In order to comprehend human behavior, behavioral scientists conduct experiments beyond simple observation of what people do.

Better decision-making is influenced by behavioral science.

There is a method to the madness of decision-making, even though people can and frequently do make “irrational” choices. Once we comprehend these patterns of human behavior, we can use them to create environments that support people in making better decisions because there are “predictable” patterns in our irrationality.

Whether developing personal habits, designing products and marketing strategies, or determining public policy, applied behavioral science can positively impact decision-making.

Making decisions frequently occurs automatically. According to behavioral scientists who have studied human behavior, humans use mental shortcuts or rules of thumb to make 95% of the decisions they make.

You are designing what behavioral scientists call the “choice architecture” whenever you design a space where a human must make a choice, whether it is a marketing landing page or a school cafeteria. No matter how you construct your choice architecture, you will, consciously or unconsciously, impact how people make decisions.

Choice architecture in decision-making influence

Nudges and conducting experiments are two crucial tools offered by behavioral science for enhancing your choice architecture and influencing decision-making.

  • Nudges: These are tried-and-true techniques developed by behavioral scientists that alter the structure of people’s choices to aid in making the best choice. (With the release of the book Nudge: Improving Decisions About Health, Wealth, and Happiness, this behavioral economics concept was more widely introduced to the public.)
  • Experiments: Experiments are a controlled way for behavioral scientists to establish baselines, isolate factors that affect people’s behavior, and offer proof that your suggestion for altering the choice architecture is adequate.

Using behavioral science to improve decision-making predictions

You can design better behavioral science experiments if you have a better grasp on HOW & WHY people make decisions (i.e., what some of these “rules of thumb” for decision-making are). Applied behavioral science has many advantages compared to the conventional “Mad Men” strategy of throwing ideas at the wall and hoping for the best.

The use of applied behavioral science enables you to implement solutions that are supported by scientific data, enables you to pinpoint the reasons why your most recent idea was successful in influencing behavior, and allows you to measure the impact on people’s actions.

Famous behavioral science experiments: 

More than 290 experiments illustrating the irrationality of human behavior have been conducted. The most widespread/critical behavioral science interventions are listed below:

  • Loss Aversion: According to behavioral science, the psychological pain of losing is twice as intense for people as the joy of winning. Behavioral scientists have used loss aversion to study human behavior, demonstrating why penalty frames can occasionally be more effective than reward frames at motivating behavior (Gächter et al., 2009).
  • Endowment effect: The endowment effect is a bias in which we overvalue our possessions regardless of their actual market value (Kahneman et al., 1991). It becomes obvious when people become hesitant to sell an item they own for its cash equivalent or when the price they are willing to pay for the item is lower than the price they are willing to accept when selling it.
  • Choice Overload: According to behavioral scientists, choice overload occurs when consumers are presented with excessive options. According to applied behavioral science, having too many options is linked to unhappiness, decision fatigue, selecting the default option, and choice deferral, which is the avoidance of decision-making altogether, such as not making a purchase (Iyengar & Lepper, 2000).

Where can behavioral science go wrong?

At first glance, behavioral science appears straightforward. For eg, visit Wikipedia. Select one of the many behavioral science interventions, and you think, you can influence people’s behavior as you desire. Wrong. That will not work at best; at worst, you will ruin your reputation and the outcomes.

Check out the most typical pitfalls in applying behavioral economics.

What distinguishes behavioral science from social science?

  • Social science and behavioral science both study human behavior. Although “social science” and “behavioral science” are frequently used interchangeably, the two fields have different scopes, subjects, and methodologies. The social context is the main focus of social science. However, there are areas where social science and behavioral science overlap. Social science generally examines social processes, organizations, and institutions.
  • Behavior science aims to comprehend why people behave in a certain way and frequently aims to make generalizations about how behavior affects society. Through a methodical examination of human behavior, behavioral science investigates cognitive processes, particularly those related to communication and decision-making.

In contrast to social scientists, behavioral scientists gather empirical data and conduct experiments using testing, controls, and artificially altered environments.

Social science investigates how people behave in various social settings.

Instead of concentrating on individual differences in decision-making or communication, the social sciences study society. In sociology, for instance, individuals are examined within social institutions like family, religion, politics, education, and the economy.

Social science employs methods like observation, self-reporting surveys, or interviews. In behavioral science, experiments are used to gather empirical data. To find and quantify the effects of these manipulations on the subject’s decision-making, behavioral scientists manipulate the context. There is a greater degree of certainty that the outcome was caused by the methodical manipulation and control of something when it has been done.

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