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Studying Behavior with Observations

by Ron Kurtus (updated 19 January 2022)

A common way to study behavior is to simply observe it happening.

We subconsciously learn how others behave in different situations by observing what they do. You can also purposely observe and study the behavior of people, animals and plants. From repeated observations, you can try to make some generalizations to find out the exactly what happens and why.

Questions you may have about this are:

This lesson will answer those questions.

Examples of observations

Some common examples of making observations about behavior and then trying to establish rules of behavior for this individual and situation.

Observation technique

Drawing conclusions from observations

  1. Observe or recall the behavior or some organism.
  2. Recall the circumstances leading up to the behavior. You could break down the situation into a scenario of events, if applicable.
  3. Draw some conclusions.
    • Break down each situation into a cause and effect. That is, break it into a stimulus, resulting in a behavior--or behavior rule. For example: If a dog sees someone walking in front of the house, then he will bark at the person.
    • Try to define the reason, logic, or motivation behind the behavior.

Specific observation application 

One day you see birds peacefully searching for seeds around a bird feeder, but then another day where there is a whole pile of seeds, you see the birds fighting for the food.

You could make a behavioral rule that:

You could create a supposition on why the birds act this way:

(Note that this specific behavior has been seen with chimps, sharks, and even people.)


You can observe the behavior of yourself, other people, animals and plants and then determine rules and explanations for that behavior. By recalling the circumstances, you can establish a behavioral rule. Then you can guess at the reasons for the behavior.

You learn by paying attention, observing and being curious.

Resources and references

Ron Kurtus' Credentials


Behavior Resources


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