What Is Human Behavior? Theories, Definition, And Types

By: Gabrielle Benitez

Updated May 28, 2021

Medically Reviewed By: Lauren Guilbeault

Human behavior is an inherently complex subject matter which pertains to the manner and reasons behind people's actions. Of course, there are countless theories associated with human behavior and various types of conduct. Understanding human behavior is very important in society; the knowledge sheds light on patterns, the reasons people make certain decisions, and much more. Of course, the more one understands about human behavior, the better they can position themselves and comprehend how others see, interpret, and adapt to their various environments.

Theories Of Human Behavior

Of theories about human behavior, one of the most prevalent ones of all is that of conditioning. Conditioning occurs when someone is groomed into behaving in a certain manner. There are two main types of conditioning, and different people may be more impacted by one form over the other. Of course, conditioning human beings to behave in a certain way can have prompt ethical or moral debates, especially when someone is conditioned to act in a manner which fails to suit their best interests. Then, others maintain that human beings are all inherently programmed to behave in one way or another.

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Classical Conditioning

Classical conditioning occurs when someone comes to associate specific stimuli with various outcomes. In turn, this manner of conditioning often encourages people to behave in ways which will bring them joy and pleasure. For instance, if someone finds that they tend to do well when they follow their instincts as opposed to following the rules, they are likelier to be a nonconformist and take risks. Classical conditioning does not always have to occur from the actions or manipulations of a specific individual. Sometimes, this type of conditioning happens from society or from the environment in which someone is routinely exposed to.

Operant Conditioning

Quite simply, operant conditioning controls human behavior via positive and negative reinforcement. A person who finds themselves constantly in trouble with the law when they break certain rules typically learns to associate rule-breaking with legal issues. Likewise, an individual who regularly studies for exams and aces them comes to associate studying with positive grades. When it comes to human behavior, people tend to steer clear of what causes them pain and gravitate towards pleasure and personal satisfaction. These are some of how conditioning, both classical and operant, is theorized to impact human behavior.


In the realm of human behavior, cognition is a very prevalent theory which maintains that human behavior is determined by an individual's thoughts, inner judgment, personal motivations, etc. This particular theory places great emphasis on people's internal states and maintains that what a person is feeling, thinking, or battling will eventually impact the behavior which the world sees. Of course, cognitive theories which pertain to human behavior are heavily supported by mental health studies, psychological studies, and more. Much of what exists within the tangible, external world today originally existed within an individual's mind.

Types Of Human Behavior

Many theories of human behavior are widely used and accepted in today's world. Understanding these theories makes a difference, but so does understanding the types of human behavior and the factors which drive them. As a unique species, human beings will collectively and individually fall into different or even multiple categories. Certain people may be inclined in one direction, whereas others are driven by something else entirely. Nevertheless, the following information is required to understand what human behavior is true.


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How people behave is largely impacted by their personality. Some individuals may be patient and easygoing, while others are impatient and hot-headed. In most cases, you cannot tell someone's personality right off the bat. Usually, it takes time to get to know them, interact with them, and truly get a feel for what you're dealing with. Some personalities are friendlier than others, and there are a series of factors which can shape or alter someone's personality. Culture, environment, the peer can influence an individual's personality, and so much more.


A person's level of interest significantly plays a role in their human behavior. Interest can determine whether or not someone behaves in a way which is not consistent with who they are. Furthermore, interest often determines whether or not someone takes risks or pursues a goal. More often than not, when someone is interested in a person or subject, they are more likely to devote attention than if they were not interested. Gauging a person's interest in something can be a very great way of predicting or theorizing forthcoming human behavior.


Like personality and interest, individual attitude also deeply affects human behavior. Attitudes can be right or wrong, by one's development or by outside influence. Nevertheless, there is no denying that a person's attitude determines the choices they make, the way they interact with others, and their general human behavior in a nutshell. A positive attitude can make someone more open and receptive to a certain person or situation. Likewise, a negative attitude tends to cause individuals to avoid or shut out what they view disfavorably.


Emotions are deeply relevant when it pertains to human behavior. So many actions and decisions in life are emotionally charged, even when people don't realize this on the surface. A positive emotional state can cause someone to be open-minded, more likely to take risks, and otherwise engage in certain behaviors. Likewise, a negative emotional state can lead to destruction, isolation, or a person's decision to withdraw. Virtually all manners of human behavior can be traced back to emotions of some sort, even if additional factors are involved.

Human Behavior And Self-Control

A more thorough comprehension of human behavior has positively contributed to society on so many levels. This is an undeniable fact, and yet, in spite of the definition, theories, and types of human behavior, self-control is still very much relevant. How you behave always makes a difference because when it's all said and done, you are accountable for your actions. Behaving well and controlling yourself is very easy when everything is going well, and your back isn't against the wall. However, behavior in the face of stress, worries, and challenges is often what turns out to be the most defining.

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Self-control matters because it determines whether or not you stay grounded even in the face of adversity or tough times. Someone who lacks self-control will have a significantly harder time staying out of trouble than someone who knows how to manage themselves. Exercising self-control doesn't mean that you will never feel angry. It doesn't mean that your personality, interest levels, and attitudes won't come into play; however, when you have self-control, you can manage these factors instead of allowing them to manage you.

Consequences, whether positive or negative, are inevitable factors when it comes to human behavior. The choices you make and how you choose to behave determine whether or not you experience desirable or undesirable outcomes. Self-control is what allows you to manage your behavior and avoid negative consequences which you don't want to be exposed to. There are countless situations where people have looked back and either wished they'd exercised better self-control or felt thankful that they did exercise self-control.

What If You Struggle With Your Human Behavior?

If you find yourself struggling with managing your behavior, then this could very well be a sign of a deeper issue which needs to be addressed. Even when someone is feeling frustrated or under the weather, there still tends to be a degree of self-control, which allows them to manage the choices they make and how they interact with others.

Issues with personal human behavior could be indicative of unresolved issues or past trauma. Sometimes, people find themselves on negative downwards spirals when they haven't dealt with very important issues which have the power to impact their life. Unresolved trauma can impact someone's personality, levels of interest, attitude, emotional state, and so much more. It's nothing to mess around with, and the worst part is that many individuals are not consciously aware when these adverse impacts are happening. All they can see is the symptoms of the problem, hence the inability to manage their behavior.

If this is something which resonates with you, then signing up for online therapy with BetterHelp can truly change your life for the better. Online therapy comes with multiple benefits; first and foremost, you'll have access to a therapist regardless of who you are or where you live. Secondly, you'll have the support system and professional guidance, which can provide insight into your situation. Finally, by working with a therapist, you open yourself up to not only learning more about yourself as an individual but also understanding important details which impact the quality of your life.

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Regardless of who you are or what you may be going through, you deserve access to the best care possible, and you deserve the opportunity to make the rest of your life the best of your life.

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