The universe is a conglomerate and complex arrangement of natural creation with living creatures and inanimate objects. Among the living creatures man is the highest evolved animal. While primitive man was more concerned with search for food and safety from natural calamities, the growth of civilization has helped man to explore the wonders of nature in its different manifestations. Very many sciences have been developed. Man has been able to retrace his own evolution through various grades of animal life.
Eminent scientists and explorers like Darwin Livingstone, H.G. Wells, Huxley, Bertrand Russel, Trollose, Copernicus, etc., have written volumes on the evolution of the living organisms in the world. Astronomers have also contributed with their
discoveries of the terrestrial bodies, their lives, emanations, etc. Some of the theories evolved by Darwin and other scientists have expressed that life on the earth is conservation of energy in a cyclical form and when life exists in an organism, it is surviving by its own instincts and impulses to adjust for the animate and inanimate environment. Two of Darwin's principles namely 'the survival of the fittest' and 'the propagation of species' have explained how life continues in this earth in
different protean forms. The most interesting thing is that the tiniest of organisms in the form of virus, bacteria, protozoa, etc., and all other intermediate forms of life and ultimately the highest in order, the homo sapiens are all subject to various influences from the surrounding objects and lives which may affect their existence and behavior and for which they may respond or react suitably.
The higher order of animals are endowed with intellect and they are able to think and act. We see patterns of behavior even in the tiniest of organisms. They grow in groups and live and move about together in colonies. For example bacteria, ants, insects, bees, etc. When we subject them to any harmful influence we see them reacting sharply and changing their course of movements to avoid danger. We may call this 'instinctive' or 'reflex' behavior. We do not know Whether the lower animals and insects, etc., communicate among themselves as we do but when we watch closely the
animals, birds, insects, etc., We do see something which is very much like interpersonal communication.
In the study of physiology of animals there are experiments done to see the functioning of heart, lungs, etc., by dissecting them out intact from the body and subjecting them to the influence of electrolytes and chemicals under suitable temperature conditions. A frog’s heart can continue to beat for quite some hours even after it is taken out from the frog’s body provided it is kept under certain laboratory conditions. Another interesting experiment in physiology is the decapitated frog which is able to swim about in water for some hours in spite of the fact that the head (and brain) have been dissected away. This experiment is done to demonstrate the reflex mechanisms and voluntary movements under the control of the autonomic nervous systems. The heart-lung preparation done in dogs or similar mammals in another typical example of exhibiting life process and its changes under different physical and chemical influences.
These are examples of the cells of the tissue or organs of the body responding to chemical stimuli. Pavlov, a famous Russian scientist dissected out the stomach of a dog and demonstrated the secretion of gastric juice at the sight of food. This is an example of an organ of a particular body responding to a psycho physiological stimulus.
It is a very interesting thing to see the amoeba, a unicellular protozoan, under the microscope. It moves by throwing its body into pseudo-podia . It engulfs food by means of the pseudo-podia. It also reacts to external stimuli like warmth, cold, irritation, etc. by shrinking. Further when the environment is unfavorable for its existence it is able to form a cyst which is a dormant vegetative form of life from which it can retransform itself into the mobile form, when conditions improve. It is a wonder that all life processes take place within a single cell which can move from place to place and also that there is a semblance of psychological processes of the cell which is purely instinctive.
In the study of evolution it has been found that when life goes from the lowest to the highest order, the sensory organs are not only more developed but are also distinct for different types of sensation-touch, vision, taste, smell and hearing. In the higher order of animals the brain is developed in different grades. An intellect is the indivisible part of the brain. In man it is the most highly developed. It gives the capacity for thinking and feeling. It is influenced by the different sensations that are received by the body and carried to and registered into the brain. It is the intellect which helps in deciding any voluntary action.
Apart from the physical activities which the body has to perform for eating, sleeping, walking, talking, etc. there are ever so many things which man does either to satisfy his own needs and wants or to be recognized or accepted by others around him. Some acts are also done to overcome difficulties, pain, hunger or escape from danger, etc. All actions or acts of man arise out of a resultant mental decision and the combination of all acts can be called behavior. Behavior according to the Oxford dictionary means ‘the way in which a thing or person acts, conducts, manners, mode of behavior reaction under a set of imposed conditions. ‘ Joy, sorrow, anger, love, hatred, jealousy, sympathy, etc. are feelings which influence and shape behavior.
The study of human behavior is very useful to know how and why people behave in a particular way. All over the world it has been observed that individuals behave differently in different situations and there are also group behaviors which can be changing in each situation. A variety of factors from inside or within the individual as well as from the external world have been found to be responsible for patterns of behavior in individuals and groups. Such influence can occur in various permutations and combinations.
For example, a person may be very jubilant and boisterous in the company of some but may be quite morose and serious in the company of some other. At the same time when he is alone he may choose to be noisy or very serious and silent which may again depend on the time, the place and his mood, etc.
We are concerned in Health Education very much about why people do certain things correctly to safeguard their health or fail to do things which are necessary for health or do things which are harmful for health. In almost every languages we have a proverb which says Health is Wealth. But in actual life situation, in many places and times, we see behaviors which are not conducive to good health. It is to understand the minds of people and to help them to understand what is good for them in thought and action that the study of human behavior gains much importance.
Behavioral sciences comprise three major branches-Sociology, Anthropology and Psychology.
Study of sociology is of great importance for the health educator because it helps in the understanding of the human nature and human behavior. Perception, values and norms, attitudes, development of personality, individual and group behavior, institutions, etc. are all the various aspects of sociology.