Many people have questions about why things are the way they are sometimes in society, politics, religion, and even within themselves. They wonder if there is a reason for something or someone’s behavior.

Research has been done to determine whether it is more likely to produce positive changes in behaviors if you can identify what factors contribute to that behavior, and how to reduce or eliminate these factors. This research is referred to as motivational psychology because it looks at ways to motivate individuals to change their behaviors.

There are several types of motivation, with some being more effective than others depending on the individual and the situation. It is important to know which type of motivation is needed to help an individual achieve his/her goal before picking up the ball.

This article will talk about five different scientific studies and how they relate to motivations. The first three studies focus on social influence, while the last two study reasons to perform actions. We will discuss each one briefly before moving onto our topic.

Types of scientific research

how scientific research addresses questions about behavior

What does it mean to say that science addresses questions about behavior? There are several types of studies that make up this category. Some look at how often people do certain things, while others investigate what causes someone to perform an action. Others study the benefits or costs of doing something. Still other studies compare different strategies for achieving your goal.

As you read through the reports in this article, remember that even if a study is not mentioned specifically, it may be assigned one of these categories.

Intervention studies evaluate whether having an intervention (like teaching someone to cook) works better than no intervention (no lessons). Before-and-after studies assess whether introducing a new policy or changing an existing one changes the outcome being studied. Trend studies track outcomes over time to see if there is a pattern to note. Comparative effectiveness studies find out which approaches work best when used independently of each other. And cost-effectiveness studies determine which interventions are most worth their price.

The importance of context in science

how scientific research addresses questions about behavior

In scientific research, it is important to consider what kind of setting your experiment is conducted in and what people are telling yourself about how you should behave before conducting an activity.

The same thing happens in the real world! People’s behavior is influenced by their environment, and changing the surrounding conditions can affect what they do.

For example, when someone else nearby is doing something that looks good, they may try to imitate that behavior or at least give into temptation more than they normally would. Or maybe they’ll think “It’s okay to eat some junk food because everyone around me is eating it,” thus creating a situation where they feel obligated to follow that pattern.

Either way, this altered perception of the surroundings makes it harder for them to recognize true needs, and therefore, it impacts their ability to know why they shouldn’t be spending money or engaging in unhealthy behaviors.

Research methods

Many studies use interviews or questionnaires to gather information. This is common when studying people, whether they work or not, and whether they are paid or not for their job. Questionnaire surveys can be done online, through software, or by asking someone to write down what they think and then comparing that with statements and questions from other sources to see if there’s a match.

Interviews are similar to questionnaire surveys except instead of asking open-ended questions, they ask participants closed questions about specific topics. The difference between the two is which type of response you get depending on what the person being studied knows or doesn’t know.

If you’re curious how people behave in certain situations, interview/closed question studies are better than questionnaires because you’ll get more detailed answers.

Control groups

how scientific research addresses questions about behavior

A key part of scientific research is using a group of participants that do not have access to the intervention or treatment as control groups. This can be done either at the individual level, for example, having one person serve as a control participant who does not receive the new behavior or intervention, or at the whole group level, like having another organization’s team play a game without their own team’s equipment.

In studies about how to reduce smoking among teenagers, a common topic is vaunted use of nicotine patches or gum. However, what these studies fail to note is that most likely many teens already have effective ways to quit if they wanted to – they just don’t because those strategies are unavailable to them. Therefore, the patch and gum may actually increase tobacco usage since there is no way to apply it.

When designing a study, researchers must make sure that participants in the control condition get the same degree of care and attention as people in the other conditions. For instance, when studying whether giving away free food helps you lose weight, individuals receiving the free food typically also eat less healthy foods while spending money seeking out unhealthy snacks. By including such controls in your experiment, you can be more confident that any changes observed in the outcome (in this case weight loss) are due to the intervention and not external factors.

Confidence levels

how scientific research addresses questions about behavior

One important way to determine whether or not something works is by looking at how confident researchers are in the intervention’s effectiveness. If most of the experts agree that something does work, then it must!

Conventional wisdom has it that if you try to talk yourself out of quitting smoking, your subconscious will instead encourage you to smoke more. This happens because we have a tendency to compare our current state with some reference point – say, what smokers seem to do after they quit for a few days.

If those early weeks feel like they went well, then we get motivated to keep going. But as soon as things start getting tough, our subconscious switches strategies and encourages us to give up completely.

This process seems irrational, but it makes sense from an evolutionary perspective. It helps ensure that someone doesn’t die before their next meal (smoking cessation can be expensive!).

By relying on this innate psychological mechanism, cognitive-behavioral therapies can help you stick to your goals even when thoughts about giving up prevail over feelings of desire to do so.

Sample sizes

how scientific research addresses questions about behavior

One of the most important factors in determining whether or not to trust the results of any given study is sample size- how many people were involved in the experiment. If you are reading this article, then it means that you have already done some scientific research!

A small sample size means that there was not enough participants for the researchers to get meaningful data. This would mean that there may be too much variance in the answers gathered and thus conclusions could be skewed.

Large sample sizes, on the other hand, indicate that lots of individuals took part in the experiment which helps ensure that the findings can be generalized to the whole population.

It is very common when doing an experiment to test one hypothesis versus another to also run a power analysis to determine what size group would be needed to find significant results.

Statistical significance

how scientific research addresses questions about behavior

One of the most important concepts in psychology is statistical significance. This term refers to whether or not there is enough evidence to prove that an assertion is true or false. For example, does eating chocolate every day make you happier or do people who say they are happy actually mean they are just passingable?

In behavioral science, researchers test their assertions by conducting experiments. These experiments typically involve having participants perform a task (for example, asking someone to complete a survey) before and after the participant receives some form of intervention. By comparing the results pre-intervention with those post-intervention, we can determine how much the intervention influenced the outcome.

By using statistics, we can calculate what percentage change is significant. A difference that makes a big effect is called large. A difference that has little impact is small. When there is a moderate increase or decrease, it is considered meaningful.

A significant increase means that the experiment maker needed to conduct the study because the result was so strong. A significant decrease means that the researcher did not need to run the study because the result was weak.

When looking at research studies, you should be careful about interpreting data that have very small differences as meaningless. Because these small changes could be due to chance, they cannot be said with certainty to represent fact.

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Toughen up your moral compass.

Disciplinary differences

how scientific research addresses questions about behavior

There are many ways to classify behavior, but one of the most important distinctions is between internalized behaviors and externalized ones. This distinction comes down to whether or not you like what you’re doing because it feels good in your brain, or if it makes you feel bad when you do it.

Externalizing behaviors happens when you make actions that are influenced by something outside of you. For example, let’s say you want to know why someone else is looking at you with an angry face. You could decide to look back at them while they are looking away, or you could walk up to them and ask how their day went.

Internalization occurs when you give yourself permission to behave in a way that feels good within you. It can be thinking about all of the things you wanted to do but didn’t due to lack of motivation, planning for tomorrow, wishing for today, or just plain forgetting that you intended on exercising this morning.

Most people begin practicing internalize behaviors early in life. Let us now consider these two types of behaviors in relation to each other.