Each of us is a student of behavior. Since our earliest years, we have watched the actions of others and have attempted to interpret what we see. Whether or not youâ€™ve explicitly thought about it before, youâ€™ve been â€˜readingâ€™ people almost all your life. You watch what others do and try to explain to yourself why they have engaged in their behavior. In addition, youâ€™ve attempted to predict what they might do under different sets of conditions. Unfortunately your casual or commonsense approach to reading others can often lead to erroneous prediction. However, you can improve your predictive ability by replacing your intuitive opinions with a more systematic approach.
The systematic approach used will uncover important facts and relationships and will provide a base from which more-accurate prediction can be made. Underlying systematic approach is the belief that behavior is not random. Rather, there are certain fundamental consistencies underlying the behavior of all individuals that can be identified and then modified to reflect individual differences.
These fundamental consistencies are very important because they allow predictability. When you get into your car, you make some definite and usually highly accurate predictions about how other people will behave. In N America for instance, you would predict that other drivers will stop at stop signs and red lights, drive on the right side of the road, pass on your left, and not cross the solid double line on mountain roads. In New Delhi, drivers ensure fastening of sea belts as it has been made mandatory by the traffic police, or else a fine is imposed. Similar rules may not be strictly followed in other cities. Notice that your prediction about the behavior of people behind the wheels of their cars is almost correct. Obviously, the rules of driving make prediction about driving behavior fairly easy.
What may be less obvious is that there rules written and unwritten in almost every setting. Therefore, it can be argued that itâ€™s possible to predict behavior (undoubtedly, not always with 100% accuracy) in supermarkets, classrooms, doctorsâ€™ offices, elevators, and in most structured situations. These examples support a major contention in this article: Behavior is generally predictable, and the systematic study of behavior is a means to making reasonably accurate predictions.
When we use the phrase systematic study, we mean looking at relationship, attempting to attribute and effects, and basing our conclusions on scientific evidence — that is, on data gathered under controlled condition and measured and interpreted in a reasonably rigorous manner.
Systematic study replaces intuition, or those â€˜gut feelingâ€? about â€œwhy I do what I doâ€? and â€œwhat makes others tick.â€? Of course, a systematic approach does not mean that the things you have come to believe in an unsystematic way are necessarily incorrect. Some of the conclusion we make in this text, based on reasonably substantive research findings, will only support what you always knew was true. But youâ€™ll also be exposed to research evidence that runs counter to what you may have though it was commonsense. This article may have your intuitive views of behavior toward a systematic analysis in the belief that such analysis will improve your accuracy in explaining and predicting behavior.