It is difficult for us humans to grasp how complex our brains and bodies are. The simplest action that we perform looks like a maze of interrelated neurons in our minds. The action of getting up in the morning, for example, might seem like the easiest thing to do until we realize all the motions and movements that are happening inside of our bodies in order to perform this small action. It is also not an easy thing to measure since it is comprised of various factors that drive it. However, there are some ways in which we can examine and measure human behavior and some principles we should follow while doing so.
What is human behavior?
Human behavior represents the way a person reacts to both external and internal stimuli. It can be anything from an action we perform to an emotion we express. Some of the factors that determine human behavior are genetics, age, arousal, environmental conditions, thoughts, and feelings, so it also gives us an insight into a person’s beliefs and values. Since genetics play a role in our behavior, some of the aspects of our personality will remain the same while others might change in the course of our lives.
The fact is, we are always behaving, even when we are sleeping, mindlessly watching TV or commuting to work. It is just that some actions are visible and obvious, such as jumping or wincing, while others are unobservable, such as thoughts or attitudes.
How can we measure it?
There are certain biosensor devices that allow us to examine cognition, attention, actions or emotions. Here are some of the ways we can measure human behavior:
– eye tracking – a process where pupil dilation and corneal reflection are being measured by an infrared camera point. It can give us an insight into a person’s attention, fatigue, drowsiness or engagement;
– facial expression analysis – examines facial muscles and their activity using a camera together with an algorithm for facial expressions. It can tell us everything from a person’s engagement to their feelings;
– EEG – measures the electrical activity of the brain by putting electrodes on the scalp. This method gives us one of the most insightful analyses of emotions, engagement, motivation, workload, drowsiness, fatigue, and cognitive states.
Three principles for valuable research
In order for the research of human behavior to be relevant, it must align with three main principles:
– objectivity – objective measures are those that have the same results despite outside influences and despite who is using them. For example, a survey should have the same results whether it is conducted in written or verbal form;
– reliability – research is highly reliable if it generates the same results under consistent conditions;
– validity – research is said to be valid if it collects data that is supposed to collect.