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Behavioral science is concerned with the study of human and animal behavior. Scientists in this field looks at individuals and their behavior along with the behavior of societies, groups, and cultures, as well as processes that can contribute to specific behaviors. There is a great deal of overlap between this field and the social sciences, which can sometimes lead to confusion. The social sciences tend to focus more on structural systems and cultures, while behavioral science tends to look at the reactions within and between organisms that dictate behavioral trends.
Tools for Research
Researchers in the field of behavioral science use a number of tools to gather data. Observation of individuals and groups is one of the most powerful methods available, as it lets researchers visibly see behavior and interaction. Many researchers also use controlled, ethical experiments, which are designed to push the boundaries of normal behavior and to explore the motivations behind actions. Care must be taken, however, to ensure no person or animal is harmed during such research.
Crossover with Other Disciplines
Research in this field can include many social sciences in its approach, such as psychology and anthropology. Some researchers utilize "harder" sciences like neurology, chemistry, and even things like geology, as people may be interested in how environment informs behavior, in their work. Many of these researchers have a multidisciplinary background in different fields that come together in behavior studies.
Results of Research
Behavioral scientists use information gleaned during their work in a variety of ways. Zoological parks and breeding programs, for example, often rely heavily on behavioral science to match their animals appropriately, and to develop environments which allow animals to live as naturally as possible. Advertisers study this field keenly to learn what makes people buy products, and how buying patterns develop. Even work in politics and law enforcement has been influenced by behavioral research, as leaders and police officers learn to motivate and predict actions based on behavior patterns.
Studies of human, animal, and even plant behavior have resulted in a wide range of results, some of which have very serious implications. For example, workers in public health fields have learned to integrate behavioral science into their practice to promote healthy behaviors and encourage people to access health care. Psychologists and other mental health professionals may also incorporate behavioral science into their treatment of patients. If someone seeks cognitive behavioral therapy for treatment of a phobia, for instance, he or she often receives treatment designed with the findings of behavioral science in mind.
Careers in Behavioral Research
People interested in human and animal behavior might find a career in behavioral science rewarding. The work requires patience and a fine eye for detail since much of it involves observation and long-term study of subjects. Communication skills are also valuable, as is a background in various sciences. Neurology and biology figure heavily in this field, for example, along with topics like ethnology, psychobiology, and studies of fields like social networking, behavioral economics, and memetics.