What are the most interesting facts about human behavior?

Answer by A Quora admin:

1. Humans can't actually multitask

Sorry, folks. It's a common belief that humans can multitask, but this has been disproved by neuroscience time and time again. In fact, people can only attend to one cognitive task every time. A recent experiment conducted in this field determined that even college students could not deal with multiple different strings of information, rather, they could only focus on one set of data individually.

The reason that we may believe that we are doing multiple different tasks at the same time is because our brains can switch between mental tasks efficiently. Multitasking is only apparent – in actuality, we only process one string of information at a time.

2. Humans are hardwired for empathy, emotion, and imitation.

At the front of the brain is an area known as the premotor cortex, which makes plans to perform movements. So, for example, if you are holding a piece of cheese pizza and plan to move your hand towards your mouth, you first see neurons in the premotor cortex firing, and then neurons in your primary motor cortex.

However, if you watch someone else lift their arm and eat a slice of pizza, the same subset of neurons will fire. In fact, just watching people take a certain action is enough to cause the premotor neurons to fire as if you were actually moving. These neurons are known as "mirror neurons," and fire when a human observes an action that was performed by someone else.

These neurons also control a sense of empathy in the brain – we are empathizing with others for the actions that they take when these neurons fire in the premotor cortex. Although there are many doubts about mirror neurons, the findings so far are very exciting and the prospect of advancement is very high. 

3. Humans prescriber to the fundamental attribution error – we commonly blame the agent for their actions, not the circumstances.

In order to illustrate this hypothesis, let's look at an example. A man is walking down the street and sees a high school student trip and fall down a flight of stairs, breaking his right foot in the process. The man glances at the student, but resumes walking away. Most of us would blame the man for not helping the hurt student and make judgements on his selfish personality – unconsciously making the fundamental attribution error.

People have a tendency to make judgements on one's personality for their behavior rather than understanding social and circumstantial factors. For example, we would not commonly consider that the other man had an extremely pressing meeting to attend and did not have time to stop by.

4. The greater the expectations placed on a person, the better they will do.

The pygmalion effect explains that if a person has high expectations placed on him/her, the better they will do. In an experiment about this effect done by Robert Rosenthal and Lenore Jacobson, it was found that if teachers expected higher performance from a certain set of children, they would do better than those who were expected to do poorly.

The experiment consisted of a disguised IQ test that all students in a single California elementary school took. Teachers were told that about 20 percent of the students were likely to do better than others that year in comparison to their contests.

The teachers then set higher expectations for this set of students throughout the year, and the same IQ test was given to the set of students at the end of the year – this time showing statistical disparity towards those students who were thought to do better than others. These findings confirmed the theory that the setting of higher expectations for people leads to better results.

5. The illusion of making progress is motivating

An interesting theory known as the goal-gradient effect states that you will accelerate your behavior as you make progress toward your goal. Initially examined with rats, it was consistently shown that when rats were put in a maze, they ran faster and increased pace as they neared the end.

The reason for such a sharp increase in speed and motivation is due to the
illusion of progress. Rat effort investment in the maze was inversely proportional with the proximity to the goal, further proving the hypothesis true.

Such an increase in efforts is not only limited to rats; rather, the goal gradient hypothesis has been proven true in humans as well. For example, participants in a cafe reward program purchase more coffee the closer they are to receiving a free coffee, and internet users who rate songs for certificates are more likely to continue rating songs.

[1] http://www.columbia.edu/~rk566/r…
[2] 47 Mind-Blowing Psychological Facts You Should Know About Yourself

Hope this helps! Feel free to comment on this answer, A2A or PM me if you have any further questions or concerns.

What are the most interesting facts about human behavior?


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