"Behavior is shaped and maintained by it's consequences." —B.F. Skinner, Beyond Freedom & Dignity

Behavior is an physical (as in physics) action of a biological system(s) which performs a function of survival. There are only two kinds of behavior, instinct and learned behavior.

Because behavior is determined by the 'design' of the biological system(s) involved, subject to the laws of physics, and therefore deterministic, it can be predicted with a precision expected of any complex system.

Not all human behaviors are complex, such as stimulus-response behaviors, and therefore can be predicted fairly easily or even forced.


Behavior is the result of evolution. Our instincts (including our built-in reflexes) and the mechanisms by which we learn new behaviors are a product of evolution.

"For nearly our entire history as a species, humans were hunter-gatherers, living in small nomadic bands, seeking mates, finding shelter, pursuing prey and avoiding predators, foraging for edible fruits, seeds, and roots. For our earliest ancestors, decisions were fewer and less complex: Avoid the places where leopards lurk. Learn the hints of coming rainfall, the clues of antelope just over the horizon, the signs of fresh water nearby. Understand who is trustworthy, figure out how to collaborate with them, learn how to outsmart those who are not. Those are the kinds of tasks our brains evolved to perform."

Unconscious Behaviors

An unconscious behavior is any behavior a person is not aware of or focusing on. In general, movements are under unconscious control. They can be brought under conscious control and the unconscious "auto-pilot" trained, like in learning to play the guitar, for example. See habit.

Predicting Unconscious Behaviors

Some unconscious behaviors can be predicted by providing a stimulus for that behavior.

Behavioral Pattern

A behavioral pattern is a combination or repetition of behaviors.

Behavioral patterns are a part of a stock set or library of behaviors used by a person.

Once the major behavior patterns of someone is know, they are easily predicted.

Predicting Behavioral Patterns

A known behavioral pattern can be predicted based on it's pattern alone. For example, if a given bird chirps three times in a row as a part of it's call, you can safely predict two more chirps after the first.

Shaping Behavior

Unknowing Behavior Modification

Behavior can be shaped or modified unknowingly by using rewards and / or punishment.

These are artificial substitutes that mimic success and the natural consequence of failure.

There are several 'reward schedules' written about by B.F. Skinner that need to be included here.

See operant conditioning.

Explanations of Behavior

See Also

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Categories: behavior psychology