Why measuring behavior is awesome (+3 examples to prove it)

Why measuring behavior is awesome (+3 examples to prove it)

Posted by Natasja Bogers on Tue 03 Oct. 2023 - 3 minute read

Behavior is a general and universal thing. To state it simply: behavior is the way a person or animal acts in a particular situation/environment. As ways to behave are numerous and we are a curious species, people have been measuring behavior for centuries now. So, why is measuring behavior awesome? These 3 examples prove it.

Why measuring behavior is awesome

People have been measuring both animal and human behavior for a long time. Behavior is the actions and mannerisms made by individuals, organisms, systems or artificial entities in conjunction with themselves or their environment. It is the computed response of the system or organism to various stimuli or inputs, whether internal or external, conscious or subconscious, overt or covert, and voluntary or involuntary.[1]

Measuring these behaviors can give amazing insights. By gaining insights into our behavior, we can unlock a deeper understanding of ourselves, our habits, and our choices. This self-awareness can lead to personal growth, improved decision-making, and even better mental and physical health. 

Moreover, on a larger scale, behavior measurement can drive societal changes, from enhancing educational methods to designing more efficient public policies. Let me share some examples that show why it is so interesting to measure our behavior.

1. It can change behavior for the good

Remember that movie clip of people taking the escalator instead of the stairs next to it, until they transformed the stairs into one giant piano? It led to an impressive 66% increase in people taking the stairs instead of the escalator that day. They changed their behavior for the better, because they were triggered by something fun, rather than alarming news articles on our declining health.

Although this experiment was not scientifically conducted, it does show that the changing human behavior and measuring the results is something everyone can relate to.

2. It can involve anything and anyone

Why one person behaves a certain way and someone else can act completely the opposite way has been the subject of studies for ages. It’s not just human behavior that is that scientists find worthwhile studying; the study of animal behavior – or ethology - goes back as far as Charles Darwin and American and German ornithologists of the late 19th and early 20th century. The modern discipline of ethology is generally considered to find its roots in the work of Dutch biologist Nikolaas Tinbergen.

Without behavioral research we would have never known the Pavlov effect, why wolves howl, or more recently, the “Science of the Resting Bitch Face”, where facial expression analysis made it possible to discover why so many people – especially women – seem to suffer from a social phenomenon that labels them as bitchy, solely based on their expression.

3. It can bring people from different disciplines together

One way for behavioral research to get its limelight are the numerous conferences dedicated to the measuring of behavior, with Measuring Behavior as the ultimate conference bringing it all together in one meeting. This unique conference focuses on methods, techniques and tools in behavioral research in the widest sense.

While most conferences focus on a specific scientific area, this conference tries to create bridges between disciplines by bringing together people who may otherwise be unlikely to meet each other, with measuring behavior as the binding factor. 

Meeting researchers from other disciplines teaches you to combine different perspectives and establish links as a way of analyzing problems. During the upcoming Measuring Behavior conference in Aberdeen, Scotland (15-17 May 2024), you’ll see dozens of examples on measuring a multitude of behaviors. This could be shopper behavior at airports, cows in a stall, drivers in vehicles, and players on the field and online. Measuring Behavior includes discussion on observing all of those behaviors, and more, from both humans and animals.


1. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Behavior

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