U.S. Department of Commerce


Date of this Version



Fire Mater. 2017; 41:389–411, DOI: 10.1002/fam.2392.


U.S. government work.


The traditional social science disciplines can provide many benefits to the field of human behavior in fire (HBiF). First, the social sciences delve further into insights only marginally examined by HBiF researchers, in turn, expanding the depth of HBiF research. In this paper, I present examples of studies from the fields of social psychology and sociology that would expand HBiF research into non-engineering or ‘unobservable’ aspects of behavior during a fire event. Second, the social sciences can provide insight into new areas of research; in turn, expanding the scope of HBiF research. In this section, I introduce pre and post-fire studies and explore potential research questions that fall outside of the response period of a fire, the phase upon which, most focus is currently placed. Third, the social sciences elucidate the value of research methods available to study human behavior. Qualitative research methods are specifically highlighted. These three benefits will allow HBiF researchers to collect a wider range of data, further develop and expand current behavioral knowledge, and increase the impact of this research for both social and engineering applications. Finally, I end with a discussion on possible ways to better integrate the social sciences within human behavior in fire.