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Comparative Psychology and Ethology: differences and similarities

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Ethology is a branch of Psychobiology that is responsible for studying the behavior of animals of each species. This study does so both through experimentation and observation, the latter technique being the most widely used in general terms.

The functions of the ethologist are basically research and study of animal species, focused on their behavior in the environment.

Origins of Ethology

The concept of Ethology was used for the first time by J. Mill (1843), who defined it as “an exact science about human nature.” This term was used in biology and meant what we now understand as Ecology. Later, with the theory of ” The evolution of species ” in 1859 by Charles Darwin , a great impetus was given to Ethology. This botanist was the first to investigate the behavior of plants. Around 1907 and until 1940 the magazine “Zoological Record” had a section on Ethology, which dealt with the study of behavior for each kind of animal. From Niko Timberg (1950) the concept of Ethology was accepted as a branch of Biology .

What is Comparative Psychology?

Comparative Psychology appeared in the fifties, which was defined as: any study of the behavior of animals, that is, as a psychology of all organisms except man.

Similarities and differences between Comparative Psychology and Ethology

From the appearance of Comparative Psychology, a series of conflicts were generated between the two branches, since there was no consensus on the tasks of each one. Comparative psychologists had focused primarily on the study of the behavior, learning, and mental life of animals. Its objective was the comparison of certain aspects of behavior between different animal species, while Ethology is the branch of Biology and Experimental Psychology that studies the behavior of animals in their natural environments.

Finally, Hodós and Campbell (1969-1977) were able to draw individual characteristics between Ethology and Comparative Psychology.

  • The Comparative Psychology makes a anagenetic behavior analysis, which takes as its starting point the study of the behavioral similarities between species, away from the genetic point of view.
  • The etólogos meanwhile interpret the data in the context of evolution, since they come from biology and zoology.

Today, Comparative Psychology and Ethology are practically the same and both belong to Psychobiology .

Study methods in Ethology and Comparative Psychology

The study of behavior can be carried out through various procedures, the most important are: systematic observation and experimentation . The basic difference between observation and experimentation is the provocation of the behavioral phenomena to be studied.

The scientific observer registers the behavior without manipulating the conditions in which it occurs , because what he wants is to obtain information about the spontaneous behavior of the subjects under study in the least artificial conditions possible, in this way observational research is said to have an external validity, because the results can be generalized to the natural behavior of the subjects under study.

Ethology is a branch of Psychobiology that is responsible for studying the behavior of animals of each species. This study does so both through experimentation and observation, the latter technique being the most widely used in general terms.

The functions of the ethologist are basically research and study of animal species, focused on their behavior in the environment.

Content

Origins of Ethology

The concept of Ethology was used for the first time by J. Mill (1843), who defined it as “an exact science about human nature.” This term was used in biology and meant what we now understand as Ecology. Later, with the theory of ” The evolution of species ” in 1859 by Charles Darwin , a great impetus was given to Ethology. This botanist was the first to investigate the behavior of plants. Around 1907 and until 1940 the magazine “Zoological Record” had a section on Ethology, which dealt with the study of behavior for each kind of animal. From Niko Timberg (1950) the concept of Ethology was accepted as a branch of Biology .

What is Comparative Psychology?

Comparative Psychology appeared in the fifties, which was defined as: any study of the behavior of animals, that is, as a psychology of all organisms except man.

Similarities and differences between Comparative Psychology and Ethology

From the appearance of Comparative Psychology, a series of conflicts were generated between the two branches, since there was no consensus on the tasks of each one. Comparative psychologists had focused primarily on the study of the behavior, learning, and mental life of animals. Its objective was the comparison of certain aspects of behavior between different animal species, while Ethology is the branch of Biology and Experimental Psychology that studies the behavior of animals in their natural environments.

Finally, Hodós and Campbell (1969-1977) were able to draw individual characteristics between Ethology and Comparative Psychology.

  • The Comparative Psychology makes a anagenetic behavior analysis, which takes as its starting point the study of the behavioral similarities between species, away from the genetic point of view.
  • The etólogos meanwhile interpret the data in the context of evolution, since they come from biology and zoology.

Today, Comparative Psychology and Ethology are practically the same and both belong to Psychobiology .

Study methods in Ethology and Comparative Psychology

The study of behavior can be carried out through various procedures, the most important are: systematic observation and experimentation . The basic difference between observation and experimentation is the provocation of the behavioral phenomena to be studied.

The scientific observer registers the behavior without manipulating the conditions in which it occurs , because what he wants is to obtain information about the spontaneous behavior of the subjects under study in the least artificial conditions possible, in this way observational research is said to have an external validity, because the results can be generalized to the natural behavior of the subjects under study.

The experimenter, on the other hand, manipulates certain variables in order to know if by changing any of them, certain behaviors of the individuals in the study also change. In this way you will obtain results with internal validity, because manipulating the necessary variables in a convenient way will reduce the hypotheses about what factors affect behavior.

In both Comparative Psychology and Ethology, observation is a fundamental method, in which the researcher can only discover new behaviors by investing time in direct observation of the subjects he studies. This observation (which is based on discovering new behaviors), can sometimes be carried out by chance, but normally it must be complemented with a phase of systematic observation, in which the purpose is to collect objective data that serveixe for the description of the behavior.

When a systematic observation is carried out, we can be sure that the data we obtain are the result of natural behavior , but we do not know if the factors that we have recorded as possible determinants of the behavior (environmental variables, high-species conduits, etc.) are the main or the only ones that determine them. Thus our study will have a good external validity and instead will have a low internal validity.

By experimenting, we have the possibility of controlling the factors that influence behavior and thus we can be more sure that we know their conditioning factors , but because we subject the study subjects to an artificial situation, we do not know what the behavior would be like if it were not manipulated by the scientist. In this way we get a good internal validity but a low external validity.

Currently there are very few psychology professionals who can dedicate themselves to these fields of study, since on many occasions special subsidies are needed to pay for research in animals and very few classes and private companies are able or willing to do it. charge of the costs that this entails. Surely, in this case as in many others, the supply far exceeds the demand.

References

  • Eibesfelt, E. (1979). Madrid. Omega
  • Quera-Jordana, V. (1997). Observational Ethologists in Ethology . Madrid. Pyramid.
  • Slater, J. (1998). Introduction to Ethology . Review.
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