Thursday, August 17, 2017

Behavioral Science

This weeks topic - Behavioral Science - is in some circles considered an oxymoron. There is no science in studying behavior.

I believe there can be a scientific study of behavior but predicting behavior is another thing altogether. One need look no further than Facebook to see the results of some Behavioral Science guru - have you ever paid attention to the ads you encounter while on FB?

Those ads are tailored just for you and will include sites you have visited along with similar sites. Some marketing guru is paying a lot of money to get those ads to you, and assuming you will buy goods and/or services from one of the advertisers. Of course, this assumes you have cookies enabled and many sites insist that be the case. Test it by visiting a site like and then loading FB.

Companies use behavioral science to maximize their marketing strategies all of the time. This seems to bother some people as they see it as an invasion of their privacy. Having been in the retail world for over three decades, it does not bother me and I see it as a way for companies to maximize the effectiveness of their advertising dollars. As long as the company allows you to "opt out" you can manage what info is collected about you. If you are really hard-core about protecting your privacy and hiding from those behavioral science gurus check out the tor browser. It is relatively easy to browse the Internet privately if that is truly your desire.

Of course, there are the "real" behavioral sciences - disciplines like psychology, psychobiology and cognitive science - not to be confused with social science disciplines like economics, political science (my field) and others.

Have you ever watched the television show Criminal Minds?  That show is centered around the BAU of the FBI.That is "Behavioral Analysis Unit".  The BAU is a very real part of the FBI, but I admit I have no idea how accurate the TV show portrays the unit. The profilers investigate and solve cases weekly based upon their analysis of the crimes and offer a profile of the suspect (called unsub) on the show, Profiling is widely used in law enforcement, and occasionally abused - typically when racial profiling is employed. If a suspected criminal is described as - for example - Asian, racial profiling encourages law enforcement to stop and check any Asian.  The opportunity for abuse should be fairly obvious.'

That's a quick shack look at this week's topic, which was offered by Ramana. Be sure to check the blogs of other LBC bloggers at RamanaPravinAshok, and Maria.


  1. It is unbelievable. I wrote mine without having read your post, posted a link on facebook and found your link there to come here and find that once again, the two of us have approached the topic the same way as far as predictability is concerned.

    You have done more justice to the subject than I have by bringing in applications.

  2. Behavioral Science gives us a broad look at best, I think, and may not be too definitive. I'm well aware privacy is considered to be non-existent, but I continue to resist it any way possible. I understand there are these sneaky private companies hidden from us compiling files on each of us as some investigative reports have revealed and tech today has just made it easier. The ads that crop up for me based on sites I've visited have been more than a little ridiculous -- especially health care since I've frequently researched a variety of different, even unusual, symptoms, diagnoses of some my patients or others I've read about, Facts being sold about me in that area alone would be more than a little askew as is what they've tried to sell me online. I don't want to be retail profiled based on what I've purchased in any so-called "personalized" effort to discern my likes and dislikes which would be an over-simplification of what I might buy. I want to see it all -- items different than what I might have bought in past, items in all price ranges, not just what is thought to be my price range. I am not going to volunteer personal information to accommodate marketing.

    FWIW I was unable to read the cartoon dialogue as it was too blurry, but think I recall that cartoon -- just can't recall the exchange.

  3. I set my Firefox to automatically clear all cookies and browsing history when closing the browser. That's the only option given to the user.

    You are right about the Tor browser, but it's a bit slow in loading the page.

    About behavioral science using programming algorithm - the result can be false positive, LOL