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There’s a lot of interest in understanding human behaviour and biases. This piece is intended to describe our journey into creating Human-Matter and what Behavioural Science means to us both individually and collectively.
As two behavioural science nerds, Katerina and myself (Tania) decided to come together to simplify academic research and provide easily digestible insights that are practical and relevant to our modern lives. As we progressed with the development of Human-Matter we found a need to communicate why we started this project and what does Behavioural Science mean to us.
One of the best things about two individuals with very diverse backgrounds and experience working together is that they have a different view on a lot of things. It’s a great source of creativity.
One of the most annoying things about two individuals with very diverse backgrounds and experience working together is that they have a different view on a lot of things. It’s a great source of conflict.
Two very long zoom calls later, we still couldn’t come to an agreement on “What is Behavioural Science?”. Instead of further discussing this aimlessly we decided to quickly research the question and note our individual conclusions about it. This would help us in two ways —
1. We have a clearer picture of what Behavioural Science means to the both of us.
2. We can arrive at a collective conclusion that would be the foundation for Human-Matter.
The next two sections describe what Behavioural Science is from the viewpoint of Dr. Katerina Bohle Carbonell who looks at it more from a theoretical lens and myself, Tania D’souza, where I look at the practical applications of this field of study. We then go to provide our collective conclusion and delve a bit more into how we apply these theories to make it relevant to our everyday lives.
What Katerina has to say about Behavioural Science.
The first place where I look for a quick answer to a question like this is usually the dictionary or Wikipedia. In this case I referred the Wikipedia as it provides us with a high level definition of Behavioural Science and makes it easier for you as a reader to access the information.
Wikipedia states “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 modelling. It attempts to accomplish legitimate, objective conclusions through rigorous formulations and observation. Examples of Behavioural Sciences include Psychology, Psychobiology, Anthropology, and Cognitive Science.Generally, Behavioural Science deals primarily with human action and often seeks to generalise about human behaviour as it relates to society.”
In other words, Behavioural Science is the systematic investigation of what is happening in our heads (let’s exclude animals) and how people interact with each other. It contains several fields, and goes beyond the popular Behavioural Science books, such as those on nudging, or biases in decision making.
The Wikipedia entry differentiates Behavioural Science from Social Science, as the former focuses on decision making and communication processes, whereas social science is the study of social systems. The authors of the entry classify Cognitive Psychology as the study of Behavioural Science, whereas Behavioural Economics is a Social Science study. It is also noted that these two terms, Behavioural Science and Social Science, are used interchangeably.
Science Direct describes Behavioural Science as the study of behaviour. Harvard Business Review refers to Behavioral Science as the study of how “how people experience social interactions, form judgments, and store memories—as well as what biases they bring to bear on daily life”
“Behavioural Science to me is the systematic study of what is going on in my head and how this impacts the way I make decisions and communicate with other people. Behavioural Science assumes a link between the invisible cognitive and affective processes, and the observable behaviours.”
Dr. Katerina Bohle Carbonell
What Tania has to say about Behavioural Science.
I first heard about Behavioural Economics when I stumbled across a book called Predictably Irrational by Dan Ariely. Since then I have been keen to learn more about this field of study. One of the most memorable moments in my life was when I saw Dan Ariely speak at Kilkenomics. As I began to explore and meet experts in this field I was informed that Behavioural Economics is now also referred to as Behavioural Science (It was Rory Sutherland who enlightened me on this).
Taking my definition from the man who introduced me to this field and someone I deeply admire
“Behavioural Economics, or Behavioural Sciences, applied psychology, business psychology, decision making, or whatever title you prefer, is the study of human irrationality, decision making, self-control, and emotions.”
– Dan Ariely.
What fascinates me about this field is how traditional organisations, new age startups and government bodies are adopting principles from Behavioural Science to influence the decisions people make. Sometimes for the good, and sometimes not so much. I have personally witnessed how certain nudges, experiments/tests, and signals help us derive a behaviour we wish to create or gain insight into.
I associate the field of Behavioural Science to be is an exploration of human irrationality in a systematic way. It’s an exploration of two contradictory parts of our brain but in a strange way are complementary to each other. A kind of dualism like the concept of Yin and Yang but as Daniel Kahneman calls it System One and System Two.
System One, which is fast and automatic, including instincts, emotions, innate skills shared with animals, as well as learned associations and skills; and System Two, which is slow and deliberative and allows us to correct for the errors made by System One.
Behavioural Science has emerged as this new fascinating discipline, like a shiny new object that’s intriguing academics, entrepreneurs, and leaders. However, there’s ambiguity about what the field clearly includes or excludes. It does not necessarily mean the same thing to everyone. Not even to people from academia.
I believe this in a way is a good thing as it promotes people from diverse academic backgrounds exploring and contributing to its development. The London school of economics and political science seems to adhere to that thought. This article by Heather Kappes connects us to people, working and studying across several departments at the LSE, who share what Behavioural Science means to them.
“Behavioural Science to me is a comprehensive study that takes into consideration findings from various fields that explore the physiological and emotional, the tangible and intangible aspect of our brain. It provides us with a synoptic understanding of why we behave the way we behave and deciphers the decisions we make (irrational and rational ones). It makes us aware of our biases and empowers us to make better decisions.”
Having our individual thoughts on Behavioural Science written down helped us understand how we viewed this subject. We weren’t too far from each other.
Our collective synopsis –
1. Behavioural science is an interdisciplinary field.
2. It is the study of what goes on inside our head (what we think & feel) impacts what we do (say & act)
3. Behavioural Science is the processing of information, external cues and internal thoughts, that culminates in a decision to act, for example: to buy something, to interact in a specific way towards a specific person or to say something
4. Behavioural Science in practice could nudge you to make a decision (buy my product, like this post, open the app, eat healthy, save money)
5. Behavioural Science examines biases (which are broader tendencies than fixed traits) in us and makes us aware of intricacies in our behaviour.
At Human-Matter we are aware of the complexity involved in understanding human behaviour. Our purpose is not to over-simplify or over-generalise complexities of our behaviour, but to throw light on the different tendencies observed and cited by scientists that might give us insights into some of our irrational behaviours.
Our purpose is to help you understand how our minds work, how we tend to respond to unfamiliar situations, how we can make better decisions, and how to build better relationships with others. In simple terms, how to live and lead better.
The articles in our library are divided into 5 sections.
1. We have a summary in the cover that explains what the piece is about. This helps you get a gist before you invest time into reading further.
2. We then have a story, analogy or examples that make the Behavioural Science theories we explore more relatable.
3. A bit of theory is then presented.
4. This is followed by a section called Brain Work. This helps you reflect on similar situations in your life and gives context to the theories being explored.
5. We conclude with Tiny Tips, simple exercises that might help you get clarity when you feel challenged in a similar situation.
What we truly enjoy about our process of writing is that it is collaborative. One person is the lead on the piece and the other supports it by challenging it, contributing to it, or creatively pulling it together. We are always open to having Behavioural Science experts to contribute and be a part of Human-Matter. If you would like to be a guest writer, collaborate, partner or simply share ideas feel free to say hello to us.
The intention of us starting Human-Matter was purely to allow Katerina and myself examine how our everyday behaviours impact our lives positively or negatively, to explore modern day challenges that need solutions (Our first pilot project Restory- Helping you live a life aligned to your goals), and to share what we learn with people seeking to understand themselves and the people around them. It’s ultimately about helping us to live happier, healthier and wealthier lives.
Join us on this journey and experience the joy of being a better human with us.
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