The Ultimate Guide to Behavioral Psychology

Psychology isn’t taught in schools and this is a real shame. It means that most people leave school knowing how to calculate the size of invisible circles. But they don’t know enough about what causes and influences their behavior. Understanding this link and how to use it is what you’ll gain from learning more about behavioral psychology.

So it’s helpful if you want to be able to predict your behavior. It will help you learn how to support positive behaviors while eliminating negative habits. These are just some of the essential skills you will learn from this field.

What is Behavioral Psychology?

Behavioral psychology tries to understand why people act the way they do. This approach focuses on how your environment and experiences, past and present, create and dictate your reactions.  It suggests that people are born blank slates that are taught to react to the world. So basically, this field focuses on studying, understanding and altering those learned behaviors. This approach is strongly linked to the idea of conditioning.  It supposes that your reactions to an event or an object are caused solely by your previous experiences or learning.

The greatest benefits of behavioral psychology are its potential for predicting and changing behavior. So if you know why you react how you do to something, you have a better chance of changing the behavior. And this could eliminate bad habits as well as harmful or destructive habits.
There is one drawback to this approach. Although researchers acknowledge that other factors can influence behavior, for example genetics, this isn’t the focus of this field. As a result, some of the conclusions of behavioral psychology can suffer. For example, these theories often portray mental disorders as the result of negative learning patterns. This goes against current research which suggests that some may have a basis in the biology of the brain itself. It also ignores the very strong influence of family history and hereditary problems and issues.

Behavioral Psychology Examples

This all sounds terribly academic, but basically what it means is that your environment creates your behaviors. And that means that you can change. You can cut down on negative behaviors and patterns once you understand what’s causing them. This makes behavioral psychology incredibly useful for everyone who’s focused on personal development.

One of the better known examples of behavioral psychology is also one of the first. Most people have heard of B.F. Skinner’s famous experiments into behavioral psychology even if they don’t know his name. Skinner refined the idea of operant conditioning, which claims that behavior can be changed through reinforcement or punishment. Basically, the core idea is that behavior that’s rewarded tends to continue. And behavior that’s punished eventually ends.

This sounds like a simple idea, and truthfully it is. However, Skinner was one of the first researchers to acknowledge and test this connection between behavior and reward. His famous experiment examined the results of punishment and reward on animal behavior. He found that reward and punishment can be used to modify and teach complex behavioral patterns.

This obviously has important implications for goal achievement and habits. It means that if you can find the right reward, it will be far easier to create the habit you’re aiming for. But this field isn’t just relevant to habits, motivation and self-development. It  actually has far reaching consequence for a variety of fields including education, psychiatry and justice.

Behavioral Psychology Books

If you want to go deeper into this field, or learn about specific techniques, here are some great books to get you started:

The Best Behavioral Psychology Articles

The best thing about behavioral psychology is that you can use it to make your life better immediately. A number of these techniques are relatively straightforward, easy to learn, and incredibly effective. So if you’re looking for some ways to use behavioral psychology now, here’s where to start:

The Takeaways

The human brain is a marvelous thing. But it can also influence your behavior in unexpected and sometimes negative ways. Understanding some of the ideas of behavioral psychology can help you overcome some of these traps. This will make you more aware of why you do what you do. And you will learn better ways to change your negative patterns, behaviors, and habits in the process.

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