What does a behavioral scientist do?

Would you make a good behavioral scientist? Take our career test and find your match with over 800 careers.

Take the free career test Learn more about the career test

What is a Behavioral Scientist?

Behavioral scientists are trained professionals who study human habits, actions, and motivations. They examine the reasons people, as individuals and in groups, behave the way they do. This may involve studying why humans sometimes behave in a way that may not benefit their own wellbeing.

This vast subject area means that the work of behavioral scientists is interdisciplinary, spanning both psychology and sociology. From the psychological perspective, they seek to understand how individuals perceive, develop within, and act upon the world. In the sociological context, they explore how groups and cultures create their own social worlds and how those worlds affect the people who are a part of them.

Behavioral scientists may be academics, dedicating their careers to research and teaching. Or they may be practitioners of applied behavioral science, drawing on their knowledge and skills to address a variety of social / behavioral issues, challenges, and problems.

For example, behavioral scientists working in government positions may focus on understanding how people relate to governance, what makes them adhere to or disregard laws and regulations, or what drives their public behavior. The better scientists understand these factors, the greater chance they have of achieving goals such as getting people to pay their taxes on time, to be more environmentally responsible, to respect their fellow citizens, and so on.

Applied behavioral scientists may also be criminologists, analyzing the non-legal aspects of crime to understand the root causes of criminal activity. They may be social workers, using their behavioral science expertise to help clients or communities improve their living situations. They may be corporate coaches or training and development managers, acting as agents of change within an organization. Or they may be market research analysts, applying their understanding of consumer decision making to predict trends that can impact the price of gas, food, housing, and other commodities, and influence business growth and profit margins.

So, while all behavioral scientists are concerned with how human actions affect relationships and decision making, the specific actions, relationships, and decisions that they are interested in exploring can be significantly different.

What does a Behavioral Scientist do?

A behavioral scientist writing out her observations in order to analyze certain behaviors.

As presented in the introductory section above, the scope of the behavioral science career is wide. The day-to-day work of behavioral scientists, therefore, can vary considerably. Still, they do share some common responsibilities and tasks, including:

Investigation / Research / Analysis
Studying an environment or a behavioral pattern of an individual or a group to answer some key question is an integral function of behavioral science. This investigative research can be done in various ways. Some studies require participants to fill out surveys regarding their behavior, thoughts, and reasoning behind actions. Other studies place participants in a particular situation, allowing the behavioral scientist to observe how they respond. In some cases, observation of behavioral patterns may take place out in communities, on job sites, or other places where people gather.

After data from research has been gathered, behavioral scientists analyze recorded examples of behavior, interpret the information, and look for patterns. These patterns can be used to identify and explain a particular human behavior, predict future behaviors, and help scientists to better understand human behavior in general, in both individual and group situations.

Behavioral scientists also spend considerable time reading research papers relevant to their own research or practice. They may also head committees, as well as attend conferences and seminars dedicated to the behavioral science discipline.

It is not uncommon for behavioral scientists to work as consultants, asserting their professional opinions and findings to help an individual, a group, or an organization improve in some key area. They may also provide consultation services to community agencies and healthcare workers.

Design and Development
Behavioral scientists may be called up to design and develop particular tests to investigate or help others investigate an area of behavioral concern.

Each of these components of the behavioral scientist’s job plays an integral part in applying the science to the many areas that can benefit from it. Behavioral scientists can be found assisting and facilitating in these and other spaces and situations:

  • Addiction
  • Attention-Deficit / Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)
  • Aging and Gerontology
  • Anger
  • Anxiety
  • Applied Behavior Analysis – the four principles of behavior analysis are (1) behavior is largely a product of its immediate environment; (2) behavior is strengthened or weakened by its consequences; (3) behavior ultimately responds better to positive instead of negative consequences; (4) whether a behavior has been punished or reinforced is known only by the course of the behavior in the future
  • Autism
  • Behavioral Gerontology
  • Children and Teens
  • Crime, Delinquency, Criminal Justice, and Forensics
  • Death and Dying
  • Depression
  • Disability
  • Eating Disorders
  • Gender and LGBTQ
  • Hate Crimes
  • Health, Sports, and Fitness
  • HIV and AIDS
  • Human Centered Design – is based on a philosophy that empowers an individual or team to design products, services, systems, and experiences that address the core needs of those who experience a problem or challenge
  • Human Rights
  • Human Resources
  • Industrial
  • Organizational
  • Learning and Memory
  • Marriage / Divorce
  • Military and Veterans
  • Organizational Behavior
  • Management / Business
  • Personality Disorders
  • Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
  • Schizophrenia
  • Sexual Abuse / Addiction
  • Sleep
  • Speech Therapy
  • Technology Addiction
  • Trauma and Violence

Behavioral scientists have distinct personalities. Think you might match up? Take the free career test to find out if behavioral scientist is one of your top career matches. Take the free test now Learn more about the career test

What is the workplace of a Behavioral Scientist like?

Behavioral scientists typically work in an office. They may work outside of an office setting when conducting research through interviews or observations or presenting research results. They generally work full time during regular business hours.

The goals of behavioral science are to describe behavior, predict behavior, determine the causes of behavior, and to understand or explain behavior. Because our behaviors impact every aspect of our lives – from our health to our education choices to our social and professional interactions to our purchasing and giving / philanthropy decisions – behavioral scientists find themselves working in a particularly diverse set of environments, including research institutes, educational institutions, government entities, healthcare facilities, business corporations, and non-profit organizations.

Behavioral Scientists are also known as:
Behaviour Scientist Behavioural Scientist Social Scientist Behavior Scientist