Ola Ibigbami

Why do we behave the way we behave?

Every human behavior is a product of learning.

Learning is said to have taken place when we have been able to change/modify our behavior in response to our experiences.

Rewarding an individual (irrespective of age) for a good behavior reinforces that behavior and increases the likelihood of a repeat of that behavior. A typical example is the state of insecurity in Nigeria. I recently watched a security expert make grave assertions about the insecurity in the nation. (How I wish the government will pay serious attention to his assertions.) What he said actually made a lot of psychological sense. From the perspective of a behavioral scientist, the pattern of behavior which we see as our security challenges can be amenable to psychoanalytically guided interventions. If we can identify a reward system that is reinforcing the need to engage in banditry, kidnapping, and other related acts of terrorism against the citizenry, can we break that chain with our understanding?

From infancy into adulthood, humans tend to repeat behaviors that are gratifying or rewarding. On the other hand, we naturally avoid situations or experiences that provoke negative emotions (or pain) within us. We naturally avoid people or places where we are not appreciated or where we are made to feel bad about ourselves. While we understand that mental illness could make some people behave illogically or erratically, most patterns of behavior are almost always a direct product of our previous experiences.

How predictable can human behavior be?

After several decades of research, behavioral scientists have consistently demonstrated that human behavior can be measured, while these behavioral characteristics can be used to predict future behaviors. This makes it plausible for human behavior to be predictable.

Behavioral traits can be assessed and aggregated to determine individual personality. We must acknowledge the fact that our genes (hereditary factors) and the environment cumulatively have roles to play in influencing our behavior. However, the nature of the influence could be positive or negative. For instance, a man who is an alcoholic could make his children loath alcohol because of their witnessing the negative impact it has had on him.

If we can predict human behavior, is it possible for us to use the information obtained to improve the quality of i, human interaction?

Yes, we can!

Whether it is for issues like child upbringing or in big stuff like “banditry”, we can use the information to plan how to break the chain of an undesirable pattern of behavior.

The human mind from infancy, through childhood and adolescence, into adulthood is like a clean slate. Our experiences inscribe on this slate, those ingredients for shaping who we are and who we will eventually become. The characteristic behaviors that we adopt in response to our experiences (positive or negative) eventually define who we are. Our personality is simply the way we think, feel and behave. People know who we are by how we relate to them, and these relationships are a product of our past experiences.

By implication, who you are today is a product of what you have experienced in the past, or what you have seen or heard other people experience. These experiences provide the content that has fed your mind with the “mental nutrients” that have developed you into who and what you are today.

To become who you want to be, feed your mind rightly!

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