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Human ethology is the study of "human behavior. "Ethology as a discipline is generally thought of as a sub-category of "biology, though "psychological theories have sprung up based on ethological ideas (e.g. "sociobiology, "evolutionary psychology, "attachment theory, and theories about "human universals such as gender differences, incest avoidance, mourning, hierarchy and pursuit of possession).



Ethology has its roots in the study of "evolution, especially after evolution's increasing popularity after Darwin's detailed observations. It became a distinct discipline in the 1930s with zoologists "Konrad Lorenz and "Niko Tinbergen. They rejected theories that relied on stimuli and learning alone, and elaborated on concepts that had not been well understood, such as "instinct. They promoted the theory that evolution had placed within creatures innate abilities and responses to certain stimuli that advanced the thriving of the species. They and another ethologist, "Karl von Frisch, received a "Nobel Prize in 1973, for their overarching career discoveries concerning organization and elicitation of individual and social behavior patterns.

Many "developmental psychologists were eager to incorporate ethological principles into their theories as a way of explaining observable phenomenon in babies that could not necessarily be explained by learning or other concepts. "John Bowlby and "Mary Ainsworth used ethology prominently to explain aspects of infant-caretaker‍‍ attachment theory‍‍ (Ainsworth & Bowlby, 1991). Some important attachment concepts related to evolution:

In later years, ethology played a large role in sociobiological theory and ultimately, in evolutionary psychology, which is a relatively new field of study. Evolutionary psychology combines ethology, primatology, anthropology, and other fields to study modern human behavior in relation to adaptive ancestral human behaviors.

View on human nature‍‍[edit]

View on human nature varies across ethological theorists[edit]

Human ethology topics[edit]

Applied to human behavior, in the majority of cases, topical behavior results from motivational states and the intensity of a specific external stimulus. Organisms with a high inner motivational state for such a stimulus is called appetitive behavior. Other important concepts of zooethology, e.g., "territoriality, hierarchy, sensitive periods in "ontogenesis, etc., are also useful when discussing human behavior. For detailed information about ethology, please refer to the original works of Lorenz, Tinbergen, "Irenäus Eibl-Eibesfeldt, etc. The book Human Ethology[1] is most important for how these concepts are applied to human behavior.

Human ethology has contributed in two particular ways to our understanding of the "ontogeny of behavior in humans. This has resulted, first, from the application of techniques for the precise observation, description and classification of naturally occurring behavior and, secondly, from the ethological approach to the study of behavior, especially the development of behavior in terms of evolution. Of particular interest are questions relating to the function of a particular kind of behavior (e.g., attachment behavior) and its adaptive value. The description of the behavioral repertoire of a species, the recognition of patterns of behavioral development and the classification of established behavioral patterns are prerequisites for any comparison between different species or between organisms of a single species. The ethological approach is the study of the interaction between the organism with certain innate species-specific structures and the environment for which the organism is genetically programmed.

Invariant behavior patterns have a "morphological basis, mainly in "neuronal structures common to all members of a species and, depending on the kind of behavior, may also be common to a "genus or "family or a whole "order, e.g., "primates, or even to a whole "class, e.g., "mammals. In such structures we can retrace and follow the "evolutionary process by which the environment produced structures, especially "nervous systems and "brains, which generate adaptive behavior. In organisms with a high level of organization, the processes in which the ethologist is especially interested are those genetically preprogrammed motor and perceptual processes that facilitate social interaction and communication, such as facial expression and "vocalization. If we consider the most highly developed means of communication, "language and "speech, which is found in humans alone, the question arises as to the biological foundation of this species-specific behavior and perceptual skill. The ethologist examines this question primarily from the point of view of "ontogenetic development.

The main strength of human ethology has been its application of established interpretive patterns to new problems. On the basis of theories, concepts and methods that have proved successful in animal ethology, it looks at human behavior from a new viewpoint. The essence of this is the evolutionary perspective. But since ethologists have been relatively unaffected by the long history of the humanities, they often refer to facts and interpretations neglected by other social sciences. If we look back at the history of the relationship between the "life sciences and the "social sciences, we find two prevailing modes of theoretical orientation: on the one hand, reductionism, i.e., attempts to reduce human action to non-cognitive behavior; and on the other, attempts to separate human action and human society completely from the animal world. The advent of the theory of evolution in the 19th century brought no easy solution to the problem of "nature and nurture, since it could still be "solved" in either a continuous or discontinuous manner. Human ethology as much as any other discipline significantly contributes to the "obsolescence of such simple dichotomies.

Human Ethology has an increasing influence on the dialogue between Human Sciences and Humanities as shown for example with the book Being Human - Bridging the Gap between the Sciences of Body and Mind[2]


‍‍Ethologists‍‍ study behavior using two general methods: naturalistic observation and laboratory experimentation. Ethologist's insistence on observing organisms in their natural environment differentiates ethology from related disciplines such as evolutionary psychology and sociobiology, and their naturalistic observation "ranks as one of their main contributions to psychology" (Miller, 2001). Naturalistic Observation Ethologist believe that in order to study species-specific behaviors, a species must be observed in its natural environment. One can only understand the function of a behavior by seeing how it specifically fits into the ‍‍species‍‍ natural environment in order to fulfill a specific need. Ethologist follow a specific set of steps when studying an organism:

Ethogram A detailed description of the behavior of a species in its natural environment
Classification Classify behaviors according to their function (how they encourage survival).
Compare Compare how a behavior functions in different species and how different behaviors may serve the same function in other species.
Laboratory Experiments Determine the immediate causes of the behavior described in the first three steps.

These steps fall in line with Tinbergen's (1963) "On Aims of Methods of Ethology" in which he states that all studies of behavior must answer four questions to be considered legitimate.1. function (adaptation), 2.evolution (phylogeny), 3. causation (mechanism), and 4. development (ontogeny) needed to answer in a study.



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