Human beings have remained basically the same since we stepped onto the planet 10K years ago, 52K years ago, or 2 million years ago, depending on the theory you believe. And while we learn over the course of our lifetimes, we don't pass knowledge along to our prodigy except through history, which some of you probably slept through.
Which gives rise to the saying that those who don't know history are doomed to repeat it. Simply stated in another way, we are going to react the same in similar situations. Prehistoric man fled his cave when it caught fire, just like modern man flees if his home catches fire--exceptions being those Darwin award nominees and pyromaniacs.
So how do you use history to write say a scifi novel? Well, there are many civilizations that have developed here on planet Earth and each has tremendous variety. You have the nature centric ones of the Celts, the war dominated Persians and Romans, the Eutruscans, egyptians, Arayans, Indians. In each you'll find the reasons behind wars, human sacrifices, their devotion to the stars, dependence on rainfall. Little things like say, the development of money have a lot to say about a civilization. For example, the Romans invented coins to give their soldiers so they could buy sex in their conquered lands. The coins literally had sex acts stamped on them that the soldiers used at brothels.
If your scifi novel is set on a space station or non-m class world, consider what life is like on a submarine. The ocean at even shallow depths is a hostile world. And even if you set your novel on another Earth like world, you can that sense of marvel that so many explorers wrote about in their journals--the first climbers to Everest, the Europeans who crossed the Sahara or Gobi Deserts with no water, the nobles who traveled to the West or the Native Americans who traveled to London. You'll find the gamut of explorers from the rich snobs who looked down on the natives to those more open minded and you'll find what comforts each considered necessities. It says a lot about a man who risks his life to save a picture of his dead wife when he's in the process of losing everything else.
And those little touches will help readers identify with and connect to characters.