Significance Of Behavioral Sciences To Overall Well-Being
Explaining human conduct, why people behave the way they do, and its effects on complex social dynamics is fundamental in orienting society in a way that engenders positive outcomes. Behavioral sciences, a discipline focused on giving a more systematic method for understanding the human condition, can promote overall well-being both at a micro level, such as within a family and at the macro level, whether in the workplace or through government policy.
Before explaining the potential benefits of the behavioral sciences, we must understand what such an approach entails.
What Are Behavioral Sciences?
Behavioral sciences refer to academic disciplines focused primarily on understanding human behavior at the individual and collective levels. It involves an examination of the underlying processes and reasons that give shape to human behavior. Before the emergence of behavioral sciences, these actions were explained through pseudoscientific methods, like that of Cesare Lombroso and his bio-essentialist theories. These employed rudimentary scientific methods and were strongly affected by the author’s predispositions, made blatantly obvious in their sexism.
Behavioral sciences, by comparison, look for a more nuanced and empirical methodology for understanding and explaining human behavior. In opposition to Lombroso, they deny simplistic propositions such as human behavior being biologically motivated, arguing that it involves a complex interplay of biological, psychological, and environmental factors.
Those interested in better grasping human behavior or the organization of society can look to behavioral sciences to give them a rigorous methodological approach to achieving this outcome. Nowadays, behavioral sciences have become a vast and dynamic field, attracting aspirants from around the globe. What’s best is that eLearning is shattering geographical barriers for aspirants willing to pursue higher degrees in this domain. Today, a masters in applied behavior analysis online can be earned from anywhere, thanks to the convenience and flexibility of online learning. Such degrees offer insight into the different theories proposed by behavioral scientists and expose them to a range of potential methods they could use for their studies.
Behavioral Sciences and Mental Health
A range of disciplines from within the behavioral sciences has given us a better understanding of the factors that contribute to and determine individual well-being. The field of psychology has notably contributed in this regard. Developing a nuanced understanding of the different psychological processes, whether cognitive or emotional, can give us a better idea of the internal factors that influence mental health and how to design effective methods of treatment or intervention. Those who understand behavioral sciences and psychology can identify the warning signs of deteriorating mental health, and this can lead to early intervention to resolve the problem before it sabotages other areas of life.
Other disciplines, such as sociology, help us understand societal or material aspects of mental health. Early theories like Durkheim’s concept of Anomie and Marx’s ideas of Alienation have paved the way for more complex approaches that recognize the interplay of internal processes with material conditions and social connections in determining one’s mental health. Such an understanding gives mental health advocates a framework (such as the Equality Measurement Framework that arose from the Capability Approach) to advocate for changes to the material realities of vulnerable segments of society.
Those who understand behavioral sciences can learn to be more mindful of their internal processes, seeing emotions for what they are and responding to them more maturely. They can also identify potential warning signs of mental health issues among their friends or family, making that social institution more secure.
Behavioral Sciences and The Workplace
The insights of this discipline can help promote both a productive and a happy workspace. Various psychological studies and frameworks try to explain what drives human motivation. And these can help design workspaces where there’s a lot of employee motivation, both through the use of setting goals and rewards and through policies that engender intrinsic motivation.
An understanding of the behavioral sciences also allows businesses to examine how certain norms, values, and structures within the organization are contributing to employee behavior and performance. They can empirically examine these effects through different methodologies that enable these businesses to implement norms and systems more conducive to collaboration, striving for perfection, and employee well-being.
Finally, understanding human behavior makes organizations better at tackling and resolving conflict. By understanding the underlying factors contributing to conflicts, these organizations can create more nuanced and effective methods for their prevention and resolution. It does the former by understanding the workplace conditions most likely to cause conflict and curating them to minimize the possibility of conflict. The latter is enabled by establishing systems that facilitate better conversation between those in conflict and empower the mediator to take on a problem-solving role.
Behavioral Sciences and Public-Policy
The findings of different behavioral scientists can impact public policy by leading to policies that encourage healthy behaviors, minimize incidents of social deviance, and lead to a more sustainable and equitable distribution of resources.
When it comes to encouraging healthy behaviors, we can see the impact of behavioral science on policy through the popularity of nudge theory and methods amongst policymakers. Based on their understanding of human cognitive biases, these theories argue that small changes within the public environment can encourage more people towards healthier choices. An example is in Singapore, where a simple change where citizens have to opt out of organ donation following their death rather than opting in has led to a significant decrease in the waiting list for organs in this country.
Behavioral sciences also help minimize incidents of deviance. Their focus on the psychological and material conditions that lead to delinquency can lead to policies that target the underlying causes of crime. Further, the development of situational crime prevention practices that recognize the commission of a crime as the existence of an opportunity has led to cost-effective and immediate solutions that help lower crime rates.
Finally, the focus of behavioral sciences on social, economic, and psychological factors as primary motivators for human behavior and action gives policymakers the impetus to deal with social inequality and work toward fairness. By recognizing how the lifestyles of vulnerable groups are constrained by their material realities, these policymakers can introduce proposals tailored to the specific needs of these disenfranchised groups.
Behavioral sciences present a significant departure from previous modes of thinking where explanations for human actions were essentialistic and overly-simplistic narratives, as the ones professed by Lombroso. Now, it’s based on more rigorous and verifiable methods of study, where human activity is the consequence of multiple influencing factors such as biology, psychology, socialization, economic condition, environment, etc. The insights gained from these studies provide an invaluable resource in understanding and combatting mental illness, creating workspaces conducive to employee well-being and productivity, and enacting policy that leads to more stability and fairer outcomes for all.