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Understanding Human Behaviour

Understanding Human Behaviour

Understanding Human Behaviour

Many people have problems understanding the behaviour of others.

Not only do we have trouble understanding the behaviour and the minds of others, we sometimes have trouble understanding ourselves.

The mind is difficult to understand because it is an invisible, non-material thing.

Your mind is immaterial. By contrast, your body is material.

If there is something wrong with your physical body, then that illness is self-evident. For example, if you have a heavy cold, then that is self-evident; as is the cause, and the remedy.

By contrast, if one has a mental problem, then that is not always immediately self-evident, since the mind is non-physical. It is invisible to everyone except its possessor, ie only you can perceive your mind, and if your mind is malfunctioning, then that fact may not be obvious to others. The cause and the remedy may be difficult to find.

In order to understand human behaviour, one can refer to two disciplines that attempt to explain why people behave the way they do. The two disciplines are: Philosophy and Psychology.


Philosophy is the broader term. Philosophy is the sum of all your thoughts relating to the following issues:

  1. Religion. Does God exist?
  2. Metaphysical issues: Such as is there life after death.
  3. Epistemology. The study of what constitutes valid knowledge.
  4. Logic. The study of correct reasoning.
  5. Ethics. The study of good and evil.
  6. Politics. The study of government; and who should rule, and by what means.
  7. Economics. The study of the creation and distribution of wealth.
  8. Aesthetics. The study of good taste in the arts: music, literature, architecture, photography, fashion, etc.


Psychology is the narrower term. Psychology is a fledgling science and sets out to understand the human mind and behaviour by means of using the "Scientific method", which is based upon observation and experimentation.

The problem that psychologists have in studying the mind, is that the mind is a NON physical entity, with no mass, no shape, no form.

You cannot put a person's mind under the microscope and study it. You can put their brain under a microscope, but the mind is a product of the brain; the mind is not the brain.

So, you could study Einstein's brain for an eternity and you will never find E=MC2 printed inside it. Nor will you find Einstein's personality.

So, psychology as a science, must content itself to inferring its content from the things that it can measure, such as overt behaviour.

Psychology also spends a lot of time looking at the senses, and what happens to behaviour in people who have suffered brain injuries or deformation.

Essentially, the science of psychology is a set of conflicting theories, rather than a defined science, such as chemistry.

If you contrast the state of knowledge of chemists, to the state of knowledge of psychologists, you will soon come to the conclusion that chemists know more about the behaviour of chemicals, than psychologists know about the behaviour of people.

What should you do if you want to know how to understand people?

Study both psychology and philosophy.

Between these two disciplines, lies the answer to why people behave the way they do.

For example: One could not readily explain the twin towers terrorist without reference to religion. Religion is not psychology. It is a subset of philosophy. So, to understand the actions of millions of people, you would have to understand their religious beliefs.

On the other hand, if you wanted to understand certain behaviours such as anorexia or bulimia, then you would need to study psychology. Since these issues are less philosophical and more to do with the self-image, which is a psychological concept.

If you wanted to understand why people believe certain things, and not others, you would need to understand the epistemological methods being used by the person under study.

Epistemology is the subset of philosophy that studies "Knowledge". Epistemology tries to answer the philosophical questions such as:

  • Is certainty possible?
  • If certainty is possible, then by what means?
  • If it is not possible, then, why not?

People who lack any sense of certainty have a real hard time gaining self-confidence; their psychological state becomes a function of the epistemological methods.

People who lack any sense of self-doubt, can be seen as too egotistical and overconfident, and they can become tyrannical, (Alexander the great, Napoleon, Hitler). Their psychological state is also partly a function of their messed-up epistemology.

So, I recommend you begin a study of the two topics: Philosophy and psychology.

Two books I would recommend you read first, are:

  • For psychology read: Psycho cybernetics by Maxwell Maltz.
  • For philosophy, read a short essay called: Philosophy who needs it? by Ayn Rand.

Why you need Philosophy

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About the Author: Chris Farmer


Chris Farmer is the founder of the Corporate Coach Group and has many years’ experience in training leaders and managers, in both the public and private sectors, to achieve their organisational goals, especially during tough economic times. He is also well aware of the disciplines and problems associated with running a business.

Over the years, Chris has designed and delivered thousands of training programmes and has coached and motivated many management teams, groups and individuals. His training programmes are both structured and clear, designed to help delegates organise their thinking and, wherever necessary, to improve their techniques and skills.

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