The Thinking Behind Human Behaviour

When we think of the world of psychology, it’s all too easy to limit the field to the counselling of people’s problems. But at DCU’s School of Psychology in the Faculty of Science and Health, the study of Psychology goes far beyond that of psychoanalysis and therapeutic techniques.

Take Brian Slattery, an Assistant Professor in Psychology, whose research interests in eHealth and Behavioural Psychology is helping us better understand the patterns and science behind how we act, react, and conduct ourselves in everyday life. “There’s a whole other side of psychology that includes research methods and understanding data from humans to help us make predictions about behaviour,” said Dr Slattery. “For example, the types of research I am interested in range from gauging an understanding of performance in the workplace to how people can psychologically and physically manage pain or illness. My area of work is ultimately understanding human behaviour in different applied contexts.”

Dr Slattery’s career trajectory has moved from basic science methods – lab-based work – to more applied science practices. In the lab, his work revolved around experimental behavioural analysis (reinforcement learning) and how people understand certain information. His research interests then moved into eHealth in the context of self-management of chronic illness, digital behaviour change, user engagement, technology design using participatory methods, human computer interaction, and more broadly in health and behavioural psychology. “A lot of the experimental work in the lab was really enjoyable but I also love working with people too, so there was a desire there to explore an area of research where I was interacting with people on a daily basis to get a better understanding of behaviour,” he said. “The key thing I do is take all those scientific methods from the lab and apply it to the real world, and hopefully have an impact. I really think there is still an outward public perception that psychology as a field is primarily counselling or psychotherapy when really it is far more varied. For example, there is a lot of research or work that focuses on using and developing methods to capture information so we can better understand behavioural patterns and implement behavioural changes in many different contexts.”

Human behaviour and patterns can be observed in any context for example, mental health, physical health, education, the work place, and sport. Interestingly, Dr Slattery is involved in the timely study of people in the workplace. This comes at a time when the country has shifted from office-based enterprise to working remotely against the backdrop of Covid-19. “This is what psychology is – making sense of information as it happens,” said Dr Slattery. “I think some component of remote working is here to stay and it’s important to understand how these impact on our behaviour. A lot of organisations have realised how they can free up a lot of space from having people work from home. For people, they don’t have to commute anymore. So, you need to find out how you promote wellbeing, build a sense of community, and keep people connected in a world where we work apart. “You can start with the science of psychology which has 120 years of doing this and then apply theoretical learnings to this space of the new workplace, we will hopefully be able to provide key insights and support to people.

This is a new era of psychology and it is an exciting piece of work.” For more information on the School of Psychology in the Faculty of Science and Health, visit