How Studying Behavioural Science Has Made Me A Better Programmer
26 June 2017 |
Johanna Carlberg | About a 4 minute read
In March this year I joined AND Digital as a Product Developer. We help clients accelerate their digital transformation which means we work close with clients on a day to day basis, and at the same time create great software.
Three years ago I was facing the last year of my Behavioural Science Bachelor degree at Uppsala University, Sweden, and I had to make a decision on what subject to study during my fifth semester. This semester is called ‘optional courses’ and gives the students the option of studying any subject as part of their degree, and yes, I mean literally any subject. You can choose to study Harry Potter Science or Beer Brewing or even the history of Soccer. I was working part-time as technical support in a small startup and I decided that I wanted to learn more about Computer Science. I told my dad about my plans and within an hour he had convinced me to drop out of university and start looking at how to achieve my new goal of becoming a Web Developer. A couple of months later I found myself on a flight to London.
At the time, I didn’t really think that my two years of behavioural science was worth much. Yes, I had two great years of partying and I had realised that behavioural science was definitely NOT what I wanted to work with. I knew that the behavioural science route would eventually lead me onto the path where I am today, but other than that, I didn’t really think my studies had meant anything significant to me or my career.
Today I see it very differently. The more I learn about web development, the more I understand how much my studies in behavioural science are actually helping me. In the 90’s, software engineering was mainly a developer telling a computer what to do through different commands. In today’s digitalised society it is crucial that a website is intuitive, user friendly, easy to access and also seem appealing to the user. Web development is about understanding all the processes that go on when a user interacts with a programme. It is about understanding the psychology behind how the user acts and reacts when looking at and using a website. Because of this, it is important to create software, which is not only functional, but is also great in how it makes the user feel when using it. Building a functional web page is simply no longer enough.
In psychology you study what influences a person when making a decision. You learn about the underlying psychological processes rather than just the external/cultural factors. The brain carries out billions of mental processes at all times and to make these decisions quicker and with less mental effort the brain has to create shortcuts, categorise events and create rules of thumb. This is useful and helps you in your day to day life, but it can also lead to cognitive bias, which is when decisions are illogical or irrational because of an error in the thinking process. An example of a cognitive bias is the bandwagon effect, where people simply are of a specific opinion because other people are of that opinion. Understanding how these processes affect a user can help you see that sometimes the most rational or logical solution is not necessarily the best solution. By bringing these aspects up with your team, you will get a more detailed overview and you will be able to make more informed decisions.
Another great benefit of having studied behavioural science is communication. Being able to understand different behaviours and reasoning is not only an asset when it comes to understanding the end user, but also a great asset when being part of a team. When communicating with the client, the product owner, the other developers and the designers. When you build relationships and improve communication the development will be smoother, there will be less miscommunication and you will be able to come to a mutual understanding about the end product.
Seeing and understanding these correlations has been very favourable to me and I do not for one second think that my behavioural studies were a waste. At AND Digital we have people with a very wide range of backgrounds and I do believe that it is an incredible benefit to be working in such a diverse environment. We all have different perspectives, different skills, different experiences and that gives us a great advantage and the ability to upskill each other when it comes to just about anything!
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