What are some of the behavioral research methods used by professionals in the industries of science and psychology?

The aim of behavioral research is to verify facts and theories that can help us to solve a great number of human problems and explain the reasons we act and react in particular ways to given circumstances.

Observation Labs and Naturalistic Observation

One form of behavioral research occurs in observation labs.  Naturalistic observation is observation that happens outside of the observation labs in natural environments.  Natural environments could include any place the test subject would normally be, including their home, school or another place.  However, a lot of research is done within labs, using intervention such as creating a scenario that may or may not naturally happen, and this allows the scientists to test the scenarios that they want.

Performing work in observation labs as compared to naturalistic observation also has a greater advantage as it gives the scientists more control over choosing their test subjects and how the experiment is set up and executed.  This is probably by most of the psychological and behavioral research done today happens in the observation lab rather than in natural settings.

A classic example of behavioral research performed in observation labs are the experiments performed by Ivan Pavlov, in which he proved that dogs salivate after hearing a bell when they are accustomed to getting food after they hear the bell.  Once they’re used to getting food at the bell, they salivate every time they hear a bell, even if they don’t always get food.  This is known as stimulus theory research and the original work of Pavlov has been expanded on in many different ways.  This is called classical conditioning and it serves as a basis for many experiments that are done.  In fact, Pavlov’s original discovery remains one of the most well known and most important discoveries in psychology and this is why scientists continue to do stimulus theory research to this day.

One example of how stimulus theory research has been used in recent years in observation labs has been the experimentation on rats using a stimulus for the mice to push a button to choose between getting food or cocaine. The mice quickly learn that pushing the button results in getting one or the other and then they are allowed to choose one, allowing scientists to observe and document this behavior.