Human behavior is the potential and expressed capacity (mentally, physically, and socially) of human individuals or groups to respond to internal and external stimuli throughout their life. While specific traits of one's personality, temperament, and genetics may be more consistent, other behaviors change as one moves between life stages--i.e., from birth through adolescence, adulthood, and, for example, parenthood and retirement.
Behavior is also driven, in part, by thoughts and feelings, which provide insight into individual psyche, revealing such things as attitudes and values. Human behavior is shaped by psychological traits, as personality types vary from person to person, producing different actions and behavior. Extraverted people, for instance, are more likely than introverted people to participate in social activities like parties.
The behavior of humans (just as of other organisms) falls upon a spectrum, whereby some behaviors are common while others unusual, and some are acceptable while others beyond acceptable limits. The acceptability of behavior depends heavily upon social norms and is regulated by various means of social control, partly due to the inherently conformist nature of human society in general. Thus, social norms also condition behavior, whereby humans are pressured into following certain rules and displaying certain behaviors that are deemed acceptable or unacceptable depending on the given society or culture.
Human behavior is studied by the social sciences, which include psychology, sociology, economics, and anthropology. In sociology, behavior may broadly refer to all basic human actions, including those that possess no meaning--actions directed at no person. Behavior in this general sense should not be mistaken with social behavior. Social behavior, a subset of human behavior that accounts for actions directed at others, is concerned with the considerable influence of social interaction and culture, as well as ethics, social environment, authority, persuasion, and coercion.
Long before Charles Darwin published On the Origin of Species in 1858, animal breeders knew that patterns of behavior are somehow influenced by inheritance from parents. Studies of identical twins as compared to less-closely-related human beings, and of children brought up in adoptive homes, have helped scientists understand the influence of genetics on human behavior. The study of human behavioral genetics is still developing steadily with new methods such as genome-wide association studies.
Evolutionary psychology studies behavior as the product of natural selection, whereby both human behavior and psychology are shaped by our evolutionary past. According to this field, humans attempt to increase their social status as much as possible, which increases their chances of reproductive success. They may do this by fighting, amassing wealth, or helping others with their problems.
Social norms, the often unspoken rules of a group, shape not only our behaviors but also our attitudes. An individual's behavior varies depending on the group(s) they are a part of, a characteristic of society that allows their norms to heavily impact society. Without social norms, human society would not function as it currently does. Humans would have to be more abstract in their behavior, as there would not be a pre-tested 'normal' standardized lifestyle, and individuals would have to make many more choices for themselves. The institutionalization of norms is, however, inherent in human society perhaps as a direct result of the desire to be accepted by others, which leads humans to manipulate their own behavior to 'fit in' with others. Depending on their nature and upon one's perspective, norms can impact different sections of society both positively (e.g. attending birthday celebrations, dressing warm in the winter) and negatively (e.g. racism, drug use).
Creativity is a fundamental human trait. It can be seen in tribes' adaptation of natural objects to make tools, and in the uniquely human pursuits of art and music. This creative impulse explains the constant change in fashion, technology, and food in modern society. People use creative endeavors, like art and literature, to distinguish themselves within their social group. They also use their creativity to make money and persuade others of the value of their ideas.
Another important aspect of human behavior is religion and spirituality. According to a Pew Research Center report, 54% of adults around the world state that religion is very important in their lives. Religion plays a large role in the lives of many people around the world, and it affects their behavior towards others. For example, one of the five pillars of Islam is zakat. This is the practice whereby Muslims who can afford to are required to donate 2.5% of their wealth to those in need. Many religious people regularly attend services with other members of their religion. They may take part in religious rituals, and festivals like Diwali and Easter.
An attitude is an expression of favor or disfavor toward a person, place, thing, or event. It alters between each individual, as everyone holds different attitudes towards different things. A main factor that determines attitude is likes and dislikes: the more one likes something or someone, the more one is willing to open up and accept what they have to offer; one dislikes something, they are more likely to get defensive and shut down.
An example of how one's attitude affects one's human behavior could be as simple as taking a child to the park or to the doctor. Children know they have fun at the park so their attitude becomes willing and positive, but when a doctor is mentioned, they shut down and become upset with the thought of pain. Attitudes can sculpt personalities and the way people view who we are. People with similar attitudes tend to stick together as interests and hobbies are common. This does not mean that people with different attitudes do not interact, the fact is they do. What it means is that specific attitudes can bring people together (e.g., religious groups). The way a human behaves depends a lot on how they look at the situation and what they expect to gain from it.
The weather and climate have a significant influence on human behavior. The average temperature of a country affects its traditions and people's everyday routines. For example, Spain was once a primarily agrarian country, with much of its labour force working in the fields. Spaniards developed the tradition of the siesta, an after-lunch nap, to cope with the intense midday heat. The siesta persists despite the increased use of air conditioning and the move from farming to office jobs. However, it is less common today than in the past. Norway is a northern country with cold average temperatures and short hours of daylight in winter. This has shaped its lunchtime habits. Norwegians have a fixed half an hour lunch break. This enables them to go home earlier, with many leaving work at three o'clock in the afternoon. This allows them to make the most of the remaining daylight. There is a correlation between higher temperatures and increased levels of violent crime. There are a number of theories for why this is. One theory is that people are more inclined to go outside during warmer weather, and this increases the number of opportunities for criminals. Another is that high temperatures cause a physiological response that increases people's irritability, and therefore their likeliness to escalate perceived slights into violence. There is some research detailing that changes in the weather can affect the behavior of children. One study suggests that classroom misbehavior peaked during the period of "calm before the storm."