The study of human behavior is a dense minefield of ongoing discovery. In part, it’s because the field changes as the environment does. As we change our world, our behaviors change with it, making psychology an ever-evolving game of research, statistics, best guesses, and bizarre behaviors to dissect.
Here are 99 random psychology facts about human behavior to contemplate and discuss at your next dinner party. Some may cause some controversy, and others will undoubtedly draw nods of agreement.
99 Interesting Psychology Facts about Human Behavior
- A decision made in a big group is often much worse and prone to mob mentality than a decision made with just a few key people involved. We can simply look at some general elections for evidence of this.
2. A fascinating study from the 80s revealed something about how people have shared notions when it comes to imagination. Several people were asked to draw an ordinary object, like a coffee cup. Almost all of them attracted the cup from a particular angle and perspective – slightly above, looking down upon it.
This became known as the “canonical perspective.” Most of us seem to see everyday objects in our imagination in the same way.
3. An interesting note regarding reading: It turns out that while most people say they prefer shorter lines of text when it comes to reading, they almost always read long lines of text faster. So while the traditional newspaper column seems to be entrenched in our pleasure center, a more efficient task requires about 100 characters per line of text.
4. An exciting study concluded that people who worked in rooms colored blue were more productive than in rooms painted other colors – time to invest in some paint.
5. Another study suggests that chocolate is more addictive than some drugs. Shopping also has a similar effect on the brain.
6. One of the sad facts about anxiety is that it has overtaken our species, it seems. In terms of numbers, today’s average high school kid is as anxious as a registered psychiatric patient in the 1950s.
7. A simple thing like a good morning or good night message has been shown to trigger feel-good chemicals in the brain. So if you want to make someone feel good, just send them a message at the start or end of a day.
8. A usability study concluded some exciting things about how many things a person can remember and process. Initially, one unofficial estimation states that between five and nine items were optimum for human response. So, for example, five to nine items on a menu or tab list.
A more formal study concluded that the number was more likely three to four. So three or four items are the only things possible to register when looking at a list. If you have a longer set of options to offer, you may want to group these, forming chunks of up to four items, and subitems, etc.
9. Backup plans aren’t always a good thing. Research shows that the first idea will statistically succeed less often when you plan for a contingency. All or nothing, in this case, seems to be the better mathematical option.
10. Can’t stay away from checking your Insta, Twitter, or Facebook? That’s a psychological and very real scientific phenomenon. Your brain produces the hormone dopamine when you do this. This has a very pleasing emotional result, so you keep doing it searching for that pleasure.
11. The chances are that the last person you think about at night is essential to you. But they can be picked by your brain for either good or bad reasons. That is to say, that person can be the light of your life or the bane of your existence. Your brain makes no distinction.
12. Chromostereopsis is the effect of different colors clashing to confuse the depth of the objects. So, for example, blue and red stripes will confuse the eye and mess with perception. This has a material impact on designers and artists.
13. Despite your best intentions to be confident and resolute, you’re going to doubt your position if other people disagree. You may not show it outwardly, but something in your own mind will second-guess your initial thought.
14. Dressing well has a significant impact on happiness and confidence. Try dressing up neatly if you’re looking to trick your brain into feeling a bit more up for a good day. “Dress for intention,” effectively.
15. Empathy seems to be lacking in people who wield a lot of social power. This might be why your boss always seems like such a heartless jerk. More than likely, he just struggles to empathize with people.
16. Falling in love is fantastic, and one of the most treasured feelings humans pursue. Even more impressive is that it takes just four minutes for the brain to feel it’s in love because that’s how long it takes for those chemicals to take effect.
17. Fear has a bizarre impact on your susceptibility to influence. When you are anxious or scared, you tend to seek something you know is comforting and familiar in some sense. On the other hand, when you are happy and excited, you may be more explorative with your actions and choices.
18. For some reason, happiness levels are higher in people who spend more time in the sun. You might interpret this to mean: get out into nature and enjoy yourself. That’s good advice, anyway, even though this phenomenon could be a chemical reaction to the sun’s warming rays.
19. Had a stormy night in terms of sleep? No problem – try this hack. You might be able to simply tell yourself that you slept well and trick your brain into believing it – at least for a while.
20. Happiness is a chemical, scientifically speaking. This is why chocolate is so popular with sad people. It produces a hormone called oxytocin in the brain, which essentially tells it to feel happy.
21. Have you ever wondered why the standard way to write down telephone numbers is in groups of three and four numbers? Psychologists believe it is easier for humans to remember groups of three or four items together.
22. Here’s a mind-bend. Whenever you try to remember an event from the past, your brain is trying to remember the last time you recalled it. What does this do for the reliability of the original memory? You decide. You can also read further down this list about memory and reliability.
23. Holding hands with your special ones has a positive chemical effect on your brain. You will reduce stress and actually feel less physical pain.
24. Hug your loved one for an extended period. Studies show that holding a hug for more than 20 seconds produces hormones that comfort and promote trust in your body.
25. Human behavior is influenced by imitation. Babies tend to imitate what they observe. But this brain-behavior doesn’t diminish with age. The same neurons fire when you see other people do something, even as an adult, when you are less likely to mindlessly imitate behavior.
26. If, for some reason, you feel rejected, whether at work or in a romantic context, your brain will manifest a physical reaction. You may feel sick or unwell, dizzy, or just unable to function normally for a while.
27. If people around us do not approve of something we did or said, we are likely to doubt whether we are correct in that deed. It could be something you did or an opinion you hold, but you’ll feel you might have been wrong.
28. If you’re planning on working on a personal goal, keep it to yourself. Studies show that announcing a goal to others dramatically decreases the chances that you’ll stay personally motivated enough to achieve it.
29. Feeling ignored creates a similar mental and brain reaction to a physical injury.
30. If you find a wallet, and you’re the kind of person who considers returning it, a random factor will play a significant part in whether you do. If the wallet has a picture of a child in it, you’ll make an effort to return the wallet.
31. If your brain is working overtime and you’re trying to stop thinking so you can get to sleep, try this: write down your thoughts. Getting them out seems to have a calming effect and will more often than not put your mind at ease for the night.
32. If you travel, you likely have better emotional and psychological wellness than one who doesn’t. It has also been effective in reducing stress and even improving physical health in some respects.
34. When you’re feeling overwhelmed by the crime going on in the world, you may actually be overestimating it. If you watch a lot of cop and crime shows, this is a distinct possibility, as your psyche becomes conditioned to expect crime as a standard fact of life.
35. If you’re out on a date and want to appear more attractive, try talking about things that interest you, and that you are passionate about, people tend to be attracted to others that are enthusiastic (but not overbearing) about their interests.
36. If you’re the kind of person who likes to see your friends happy and always do things to make that happen, beware. Chances are you do this to compensate for your own loneliness, and there’s a good chance you’ll end up that way.
37. In a remarkable statistical discovery, it has been noted that schizophrenia has never been diagnosed in a person who is born blind. The implications of this are yet to be fully explored, but it provides an interesting avenue for exploration of the condition.
38. In recent years, the company IKEA has gained a massive market share for homeware and furniture. There is a good reason for this. People seem to value things more when they have had a hand in creating them. IKEA capitalized on this psychological phenomenon by creating products that people assemble themselves.
39. In shocking news, it seems that being around people that are generally happy increases happiness, too.
40. Similarly, the kind of music you’re listening to dramatically changes the way your brain chemically reacts. Generally, music with high frequencies makes you happier, while music with lower frequencies makes you want to go to a political rally (probably).
41. Interesting pop culture fact: With the modern advent of reality TV, some people have shown psychological signs of believing that they live in a sort of reality show. This is called the Truman Syndrome, after the famous movie starring Jim Carrey.
42. In the realm of things that may be thought of as the same thing: Addiction is usually associated with substances like alcohol or narcotics. Doctors are currently considering classifying Internet addiction as a clinical condition as well, as it displays similar psychological symptoms.
43. It is true that physical exercise will have an exponentially positive effect on the brain. Physically active people suffer less brain (mental) deterioration as they get older. In short, the better physical shape you’re in, the less your brain ages.
44. Laughter is present in all known human cultures on Earth. It is also a subconscious action, meaning that you can’t tell yourself to laugh – as it wouldn’t be laughing. Babies from as young as four months old display what we call laughter. As an aside: other animals also display laughter – even rats.
45. Memories are seldom complete notions or stories. More than likely, a single image or emotional fragment remains in your memory, around which you associate a whole bunch of other things, including the rest of the memory, which, technically speaking you’ve now made up.
46. More on habits – or more specifically, practice. When you need to master a skill, repetition is your best bet, as repeating an action develops a neural connection in the brain that makes it easier next time.
46. Notes written in longhand are more likely to stick in your brain. Shorthand may be faster, but chances are you’re not going to remember as much of the information.
48. On average, the neural activity in the brain dies only seven minutes after a body has expired.
49. One scary idea that may totally taint what we know about psychology is that cultural impacts are as yet not fully understood. It is quite likely that psychological behavior, in general, may not be quite as universal as anyone surmises at all.
50. Oversleeping not only loses you time in the day but seems to multiply upon itself. Oversleep leads to your craving for more sleep, ironically.
51. People are hardwired to notice things moving, even in their peripheral vision. It is probably a survival skill, allowing us to do one thing while being able to see any threats we’re not directly looking at.
This has an exciting counter-effect in the modern age. With so many moving parts to websites and screens, animations and videos alongside the text we’re trying to read can be very distracting and downright annoying.
52. People seem to be hardwired to break rules. And the stricter a rule is said to be, the more tempting it becomes to cut corners around it, bend it, or outright break it. Go on, no one’s watching.
53. People who learn to delay gratification at a young age tend to do better in their social lives later on. This includes prioritizing budgets, life choices, and careers over acquiring objects that provide immediate happiness.
54. People who speak different languages may actually experience personality changes when conversing in them. So you might be a naturally funnier or happier person when switching to a second language, for example. You could also become a political party leader.
55. People with brothers and sisters tend to get along with others easier in later life, say psychologists. It may have to do with early conditioning around sharing, empathy, and connection.
56. Sarcasm is annoying when uncalled for. But it’s a sign of a vibrant and sharp mind. So the next time your kid gets snarky, just tell yourself it’s because they’re smart.
57. Some people are more empathetic than others. It also turns out these people are more likely to feel guilty about their own deeds in their thoughts.
58. here may also be some kernel of truth in the idea that people yawn when others yawn – this might be an extension of empathy.
59. Spend money on experiences, and not things. Opt to travel rather than buy a new TV, in other words. The experience leaves a more powerful positive impact on your brain. The thrill of a new item, by comparison, is fleeting.
60. Screaming or yelling is an interesting psychological occurrence. Sometimes we call when we are happy or receive good news. Other times we scream when we are sad or frightened. In chemical terms, the brain can’t tell the difference and either way the act seems to have a balancing effect on our psychological status.
61. The actual term ‘Psychology’ is of Greek origin. It means “the study of” (logia) “breath, spirit, or soul” (psyche).
62. The advent of text messaging has had an exciting effect on personal communication. When people have trouble saying things to others in person, they choose to text it. Is this a good thing? Probably not. Maybe text someone about it.
63. The anxiety is real. In one example, it has been found that some people are actually afraid of being happy, because they expect bad things to happen.
64. The average brain has actually decreased in size since the early stages of mankind – specifically the hunter-gatherer stage. We’ve lost about ten percent in size, according to scientists.
65. The best way to change a habit (aside from simply doing it differently), is to use three factors. Add an element of fun to the new habit; add an element of surprise to get others (your kids, for example) to change their habit; and look at other people who are doing it already.
66. The first option is the likely choice when we are presented with a list of things to pick from. We may not even really understand why. Unless we were looking for a specific feature of the item, we’ll likely go with what’s on top.
67. The human brain is fascinating. It operates on an estimated 20 watts of power and accounts for both unconscious and conscious functioning of the body. By contrast, the world’s fastest computers use an estimated 18 megawatts to run – that’s the energy consumption of a small city. Even so, the brain works faster, by quite a lot.
68. The legendary London Black cab drivers have to know how to get to every street in London. Studies show that they have a larger hippocampus than most ordinary people. Scientists interpret this as evidence that this area of the brain helps us process details.
69. There is a human impulse to control the environment. This has to do with safety and resources management built into our survival instincts. It applies to our homes, social spaces, and workspaces. Interestingly, though, we appreciate that control more, when we have choices to make. Translated: Choice is an inherent part of feeling we are in control.
70. There’s a reason why you love “the oldies.” Studies suggest that the songs you listen to in high school are more likely to leave a lasting imprint on your mind and memory, probably because you associate them with pleasant or emotionally explorative times.
71. The romantic notion that you can die from a broken heart indeed has some truth to it. Medically, such a death is termed Stress Cardiomyopathy, and it’s not just to be found in epic historical films.
72. The yawn is more contagious among people who are emotionally connected. So while a stranger on a train might not trigger your yawn, your mum or partner letting one happen over dinner will get yours going too.
73. Those of us who work in the modern era understand a massive debate around multitasking. The current feeling is that people cannot and should not multitask. There is a scientific argument for this. Even if you think you’re multitasking, all you’re doing is switching between two or more things quickly.
That just slows down both things and unfocuses your brain. The only exceptions are actions that do not require conscious coordination – breathing, for example, or walking while thinking about chocolate.
74. Three primitive impulses impact basic social behavior. The impulses are related to food, sex, and danger. In essence, the old basic impulses compel us to consider anything we encounter as offering any of those possibilities.
This may go some way to explaining why people slow down and look at accidents, or stare at an attractive person or poster for a delicious burger. You don’t necessarily act upon those impulses, but your inquisitive brain automatically goes to processing those possibilities.
75. Uniformity bonds people. This is why, for example, armies are taught to march together, dress the same and act in the same way. This synchronous activity can also be seen in crowds at sports events, political rally chanting, and singing national anthems.
76. We love choices. But if we are faced with too many we simply freeze up and struggle to make any choice at all.
77. We love to study and tell ourselves we’re going to start new habits, especially on New Year’s. The key to forming habits that last is just to do them, to begin with. After a while, it starts slotting into your psychological makeup, and your day won’t feel complete without doing them. A habit takes about 66 days to imprint on your brain.
78. When people see pictures of human faces, they tend to look at the eyes first.
79. When someone approaches you with the phrase: “I need to talk to you about something,” your brain cycles through all the potentially harmful things you’ve done recently.
80. When we’re students, we often lament exams and tests. But studies show that you are more likely to store information in your long-term memory if you get tested on it. That still doesn’t mean you have to enjoy tests, though.
81. When you’re feeling down, sing. Singing noticeably reduces anxiety and depression, and will generally leave you feeling better than before you did it. Hot tip: The hairbrush is a fantastic microphone.
82. When you are happy, you may tend to make better decisions to solve complex problems, because you are more likely to be intuitive about your choices. On the other hand, if you are angry or sad, it is better to be logical about your decisions, as your bad-mood gut instinct will likely negatively influence your decisions.
83. You’re more at risk of clinical depression if you are aged 18-33. While you can still suffer from depression at almost any age, and more acutely at that, this is the age group currently diagnosed the most.
84. You can fake yourself into thinking you’re making progress. It’s not necessarily a bad thing, either. The “illusion of progress” can motivate you into making actual progress.
85. You may be wondering where phobias come from. Some studies suggest that they are genetic “memories” passed down from ancestors. This might be an interesting explanation, given that so many phobias have no rational experience to draw from. On that note, it seems like chromosomes and genes have the ability to carry memory.
86. You may not want to do everything in your power to make people happy, but it has been proven that spending money on others makes you feel better. At least, it doesn’t come with the guilt of spending on yourself.
87. Your brain is wired to what is called a negativity bias. This means that you remember more bad things than good things, usually. Also, bad memories have a more potent chemical effect on your brain, roughly one bad to five good memories.
88. Your brain tends to work overtime at night, at least when it comes to your imagination. So you’re more likely to dream fanciful things or come up with bright ideas at night.
89. Your brain will betray you. If you happen to really like someone in a romantic way, you’re going to find it extremely difficult to lie to them or try to deceive them. There are several more psychological facts about crushes you should probably read about if you’re in these kinds of situations. Best advice: be honest and don’t lie, not even in the hips.
90. Your memory is probably wrong. Although traumatic or unusual events are imprinted on your memory, the details of those memories are likely not remembered correctly.
In one experiment, one day after the Challenger explosion, a professor asked his students to write down where they were and what they were doing when it happened. Three years later, he repeated the exercise with the same students. Nearly 90% of the accounts were different to the original ones when it came to the details.
91. You’ve probably heard of obsessive-compulsive disorder. It’s generally considered a psychological dysfunction. But from a biochemical point of view, it is no different from what the brain does when you develop romantic feelings for someone.
Before we end this list, consider these eight bonus facts about mind-bending studies that actually took place!
92. In the 1920s, John B. Watson experimented with the idea that he could condition a baby into developing a fear of something completely ordinary and unthreatening. He used a real infant named Albert, and began a series of conditioning tests that led to fear reaction for everything from a rat to a fake Santa beard.
93. One of the most famous psychological principles ever was not studied by a psychologist at all. Ivan Pavlov noticed that dogs he was studying started salivating when they saw his assistant, and connected that they associated the assistant with feeding time.
94. During World War II, psychologist B.F. Skinner experimented with the notion that pigeons could help guide missiles.
95. Some studies involving dogs cross over to human behavior areas. For example, one experiment looked at whether we talk to dogs the same way we talk to babies. The results were interesting, showing similarities with word usage, pitch, and a favor towards the present tense.
96. In a social experiment, a Stanford University professor created a simulated prison, in order to map behavior. About one third of the guards became so sadistic, several of the prisoners were abused and traumatized.
Most interestingly, the professor, who participated in the experiment, didn’t react to the severity of the behavior until someone observing it told him to stop.
97. In 1976, a study investigated whether the strength and length of men’s flow during urination were influenced by how close the person in the next urinal was standing to them.
98. In the 60s, medical journals detailed experiments in aversion therapy for “conditions” such as homosexuality, for example. These experiments sometimes involved electric shocks.
99. High School teacher Ron Jones attempted to demonstrate how the Nazi regime had influenced so many people. Within a week, his single class social experiment had seen students voluntarily create a fascist group on campus, creating uniforms and insignia. After five days, he called the experiment off.
Aren’t these random facts about human psychology fascinating? When you consider that this is basically just the tip of a big brainy iceberg, it’s easy to see why the subject fascinates us so much.