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Concept: Behavioural sciences


To demonstrate that six common errors made in attempts to change behaviour have prevented the implementation of the scientific evidence base derived from psychology and sociology; to suggest a new approach which incorporates recent developments in the behavioural sciences.

Concepts: Scientific method, Psychology, Epistemology, Behavior, Human behavior, Social sciences, Behaviorism, Behavioural sciences


Associations between personality traits, mental wellbeing and good health behaviours were examined to understand further the social and psychological context of the health divide.

Concepts: Psychology, Personality psychology, Sociology, Clinical psychology, Neuroticism, Big Five personality traits, Trait theory, Behavioural sciences


IN A SEMINAL PAPER WRITTEN FIVE DECADES AGO, CRONBACH DISCUSSED THE TWO HIGHLY DISTINCT APPROACHES TO SCIENTIFIC PSYCHOLOGY: experimental and correlational. Today, although these two approaches are fruitfully implemented and embraced across some fields of psychology, this synergy is largely absent from other areas, such as in the study of learning and behavior. Both Tolman and Hull, in a rare case of agreement, stated that the correlational approach held little promise for the understanding of behavior. Interestingly, this dismissal of the study of individual differences was absent in the biologically oriented branches of behavior analysis, namely, behavioral genetics and ethology. Here we propose that the distinction between “causation” and “causes of variation” (with its origins in the field of genetics) reveals the potential value of the correlational approach in understanding the full complexity of learning and behavior. Although the experimental approach can illuminate the causal variables that modulate learning, the analysis of individual differences can elucidate how much and in which way variables interact to support variations in learning in complex natural environments. For example, understanding that a past experience with a stimulus influences its “associability” provides little insight into how individual predispositions interact to modulate this influence on associability. In this “new” light, we discuss examples from studies of individual differences in animals' performance in the Morris water maze and from our own work on individual differences in general intelligence in mice. These studies illustrate that, opposed to what Underwood famously suggested, studies of individual differences can do much more to psychology than merely providing preliminary indications of cause-effect relationships.

Concepts: Psychology, Causality, Educational psychology, Behavior, Intelligence, Behaviorism, Ethology, Behavioural sciences


In animal behaviour, there is a dichotomy between innate behaviours (e.g., temperament or personality traits) versus those behaviours shaped by learning. Innate personality traits are supposedly less evident in animals when confounded by learning acquired with experience through time. Learning might play a key role in the development and adoption of successful anti-predator strategies, and the related adaptation has the potential to make animals that are more experienced less vulnerable to predation. We carried out a study in a system involving a large herbivorous mammal, female elk, Cervus elaphus, and their primary predator, i.e., human hunters. Using fine-scale satellite telemetry relocations, we tested whether differences in behaviour depending on age were due solely to selection pressure imposed by human hunters, meaning that females that were more cautious were more likely to survive and become older. Or whether learning also was involved, meaning that females adjusted their behaviour as they aged. Our results indicated that both human selection and learning contributed to the adoption of more cautious behavioural strategies in older females. Whereas human selection of behavioural traits has been shown in our previous research, we here provide evidence of additive learning processes being responsible for shaping the behaviour of individuals in this population. Female elk are indeed almost invulnerable to human hunters when older than 9-10 y.o., confirming that experience contributes to their survival. Female elk monitored in our study showed individually changing behaviours and clear adaptation as they aged, such as reduced movement rates (decreased likelihood of encountering human hunters), and increased use of secure areas (forest and steeper terrain), especially when close to roads. We also found that elk adjusted behaviours depending on the type of threat (bow and arrow vs. rifle hunters). This fine-tuning by elk to avoid hunters, rather than just becoming more cautious during the hunting season, highlights the behavioural plasticity of this species. Selection on behavioural traits and/or behavioural shifts via learning are an important but often-ignored consequence of human exploitation of wild animals. Such information is a critical component of the effects of human exploitation of wildlife populations with implications for improving their management and conservation.

Concepts: Psychology, Natural selection, Behavior, Motivation, Human behavior, Hunting, Elk, Behavioural sciences


The existing literature on sexting among youth shows that sexting is a predictor of sexual behavior and may be associated with other health outcomes and risky behaviors. However, there remains a lack of consensus on the prevalence of sexting, which is needed to inform future research, intervention, and policy development.

Concepts: Psychology, Epidemiology, Evaluation, Evidence-based medicine, Decision theory, Behavior, Human behavior, Behavioural sciences


Social cognitive theories on behaviour change are increasingly being used to understand and predict healthcare professionals' intentions and clinical behaviours. Although these theories offer important insights into how new behaviours are initiated, they provide an incomplete account of how changes in clinical practice occur by failing to consider the role of cue-contingent habits. This article contributes to better understanding of the role of habits in clinical practice and how improved effectiveness of behavioural strategies in implementation research might be achieved.

Concepts: Scientific method, Psychology, Clinical trial, Behavior, Human behavior, Behaviorism, Social relation, Behavioural sciences


The neurohormone Oxytocin (OT) has been one of the most studied peptides in behavioral sciences over the past two decades. Many studies have suggested that OT could increase trusting behaviors. A previous study, based on the “Envelope Task” paradigm, where trust is assessed by the degree of openness of an envelope containing participant’s confidential information, showed that OT increases trusting behavior and reported one of the most powerful effects of OT on a behavioral variable. In this paper we present two failed replications of this effect, despite sufficient power to replicate the original large effect. The non-significant results of these two failed replications clearly exclude a large effect of OT on trust in this paradigm but are compatible with either a null effect of OT on trust, or a small effect, undetectable with small sample size (N = 95 and 61 in Study 1 and 2, respectively). Taken together, our results question the purported size of OT’s effect on trust and emphasize the need for replications.

Concepts: Psychology, Sample size, Behavior, Human behavior, Replication, Behaviorism, Applied behavior analysis, Behavioural sciences


Uncertainty remains about whether personal financial incentives could achieve sustained changes in health-related behaviors that would reduce the fast-growing global non-communicable disease burden. This review aims to estimate whether: i. financial incentives achieve sustained changes in smoking, eating, alcohol consumption and physical activity; ii. effectiveness is modified by (a) the target behavior, (b) incentive value and attainment certainty, © recipients' deprivation level.

Concepts: Psychology, Alcohol, The Target, Behavior, Motivation, Incentive, Behavioural sciences, Microeconomics


Exercise is linked with improved cognition and behavior in children in clinical and experimental settings. This translational study examined if an aerobic cybercycling intervention integrated into physical education (PE) resulted in improvements in behavioral self-regulation and classroom functioning among children with mental health disabilities attending a therapeutic day school.

Concepts: Psychology, Medicine, Exercise, Educational psychology, Mental disorder, Motivation, Behaviorism, Behavioural sciences


Cuteness in offspring is a potent protective mechanism that ensures survival for otherwise completely dependent infants. Previous research has linked cuteness to early ethological ideas of a ‘Kindchenschema’ (infant schema) where infant facial features serve as ‘innate releasing mechanisms’ for instinctual caregiving behaviours. We propose extending the concept of cuteness beyond visual features to include positive infant sounds and smells. Evidence from behavioural and neuroimaging studies links this extended concept of cuteness to simple ‘instinctual’ behaviours and to caregiving, protection, and complex emotions. We review how cuteness supports key parental capacities by igniting fast privileged neural activity followed by slower processing in large brain networks also involved in play, empathy, and perhaps even higher-order moral emotions.

Concepts: Psychology, Brain, Human brain, Behavior, Motivation, Emotion, Behavioural sciences, Instinct