Behavioral Research Blog

Andrew Spink

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5 reasons why you should go to Measuring Behavior 2014

Posted by Andrew Spink on Jul 14, 2014

Measuring Behavior is an international multidisciplinary conference which takes place every two years. This August it is in Wageningen, in the Netherlands. If you are a behavioral researcher, you really ought to attend. Why?

1.    The diverse, multidisciplinary program. The scientific program contains contributions focusing on purely scientific aspects (issues of replicability, dynamic aspects of behavior) and applied research (animal welfare), human behavior (eye trackers in consumer research) and animal (rodent behavior), technical sessions (video tracking of social animals and recognition of human behaviors from video), sessions presenting the latest technology (3D simulators) and topics that are of relevance to everyone (eating behavior of people). The above list just scratches the surface of what promises to be a very diverse and interesting three days.

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Topics: animal behavior research, emotion recognition, animal welfare, methods and techniques, Automating behavioral observations, human behavior research, consumer behavior, behavioral research, measuring behavior, conferences

Measuring the creative process

Posted by Andrew Spink on Nov 18, 2013

After Albert Einstein died, his brain was preserved and in the following decades scientists have studied it to try and see if there was anything exceptional about it.  It is hard to draw conclusions from just one subject, but one clear difference is that he had an exceptionally large number of glial cells in the area of the brain responsible for incorporating and synthesizing information from other brain regions [1]. Glial cells are important for a number of brain functions, including signal transmission.

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Topics: Observation lab, Neuromarketing, living labs, Portable lab, behavioral research, brain waves, EEG, New York

Standing cows

Posted by Andrew Spink on Sep 25, 2013

Does it matter how much time a cow spends standing up or lying down?  Bert Tolkamp thought that it did matter, and last week he proved his point by winning an IgNobel prize [1] for his work on this [2]. He attached a sensor to the legs of some cows and measured tens of thousands of episodes of lying and standing. His findings were at first sight puzzling and on reflection, revealing (hence the prize). If a cow was lying for a long time, it was more likely to stand up, but it if had been standing for a long time, it was not more likely to lie down.

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Topics: animal welfare, GPS, Precision farming, TrackLab, Cows

The future of farming

Posted by Andrew Spink on Aug 9, 2013

Precision farming
GPS has always seemed to me to be a kind of magic technology.  The idea that a grid of satellites so far above my head that I cannot even see them can tell me exactly where I am and help give me directions where to go is pretty stupendous. And you do not even have to pay for the information! GPS is such a powerful technology that it is being applied to a great diversity of areas. One example is precision agriculture. For instance, if you are growing crops, they will often need water, pesticides and fertilizer.  If you don’t give them enough they will have a reduced yield and if you give them too much you spend too much money and you might cause pollution. The image on the right [1] shows a crop that needs watering.  But only the red areas are dry. So if that data is fed into a GIS databank and that is coupled to a GPS receiver on the irrigation system, the farmer will know precisely where to give water (or chemicals) so that the crop gets the right amount and there is minimal waste and runoff.


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Topics: animal behavior research, behavioral patterns, animal welfare, GPS, Precision farming, TrackLab, tracking, foraging behavior, precision agriculture

What are you doing in that shop?

Posted by Andrew Spink on Jul 12, 2013

In the last couple of years, the volume of online shopping has expanded beyond what anyone could have imagined [1]. Last year, in the UK, the total volume of online shopping across all sectors passed the ten percent mark. For purchases like music and video, it is over 80%, for books over 50% [1]. In Europe and America, shops in those sectors are struggling to survive — and not always succeeding. But it is not just that consumers are switching to a different channel to make their purchases. Increasingly, when a customer enters a shop, they have already done some online research. A recent study found that 75% of consumers researched products both online and in-store before making a significant purchase [2]. Some retailers worry that if customers have access to WiFi in the store, they will discover that the competition (online or another shop) is cheaper, and the sale will be lost.  Others believe that if the customer cannot do their online research on the spot, they will do it at home, and the chance of making the purchase at their shop will be decreased.

That is just one way that the changing retail environment means that traditional wisdom regarding layout and stocking of shops may need serious reconsideration. The online revolution will also have an effect on all sorts of other aspects, such as the range of items to be stocked and the levels of inventory. Maybe the retail store will be more like a showroom in the future, with orders placed in the shop, but via the website. How will the optimal location of the shop, the shop’s layout and display of items be affected? What should the total customer experience be?

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Topics: TrackLab, consumer behavior research, customer flow, shopper routes, high traffic areas, dead areas, retail

Conference about techniques and methods for measuring behavior

Posted by Andrew Spink on Aug 15, 2012

A quick search on the internet reveals that no one seems to know how many scientific conferences take place in a year. The best I could find was “it’s got to be huge”, and when it comes to it, that is as a good a quantification as you need. With so many meetings, in so many fields of behavioural research, what makes Measuring Behavior stand out? Two very important things. 

First it is not about results, which is very unusual. Virtually every conference focuses on scientific results. However, in practice, it is often the developments in methodology that have lead to the real advances in science. Without the microscope there would have been no microbiology. Without the telescope, there would be no astronomy. And without x-ray crystallography, Watson and Crick would never have discovered the structure of DNA. New methods and techniques are vital for the advancement of science.

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Topics: animal behavior research, methods and techniques, human behavior research, measuring behavior, conferences

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