What’s the Most Complex Everyday Human Behavior?

by | Mar 2, 2021

Bill and Rich Sones, Ph. D., are coauthors of the widely-distributed newspaper column “Strange, But True.” Over the past several years, they’ve gathered together thousands of questions and have diligently tracked down the scientific research that answers them. The following question was submitted to them: what’s the most complex everyday human behavior? Their response follows:

Try talking, says University of Washington speech and hearing scientist Robert M. Miller. During our conversations about 100 muscles are working at any given time to produced speech, and for each of these there are about 100 nerve endings transmitting impulses to muscle fibers.

Combine this with the fact that we produce approximately 14 sounds per second when talking. The production – 100 x 100 x 14 – suggests there are some 140,000 neuromuscular (nerve-to-muscle) events occurring during every second of conversational speech. “And this does not even begin to account for the additional brain activities necessary to develop a thought, select words to express the thought, sequence the words, program the movements and initiate the act of speaking.”

Given this level of complexity, it’s amazing any of us learn to communicate well!