File Name: comparative psychology evolution and development of behavior .zip
Comparative psychology refers to the scientific study of the behavior and mental processes of non-human animals, especially as these relate to the phylogenetic history, adaptive significance, and development of behavior.
Comparative psychology can generally be defined as the branch of psychology that studies the similarities and differences in the behavior of organisms. Formal definitions found in textbooks and encyclopedias disagree whether comparative psychologists restrict their work to the study of animals or include the study of human behavior. This paper offers an opinion on the major problem facing comparative psychology today—where we will find the next generation of comparative psychology students. Something must be done before we lose access to an entire generation of psychology undergraduates. Consider, for example, the difference between comparative psychology and comparative cognition.
Comparative psychology can generally be defined as the branch of psychology that studies the similarities and differences in the behavior of organisms. Formal definitions found in textbooks and encyclopedias disagree whether comparative psychologists restrict their work to the study of animals or include the study of human behavior. This paper offers an opinion on the major problem facing comparative psychology today—where we will find the next generation of comparative psychology students.
Something must be done before we lose access to an entire generation of psychology undergraduates. Consider, for example, the difference between comparative psychology and comparative cognition. Comparative cognition includes features of comparative psychology, but they are not identical. Comparative cognition represents a very specific theoretical position whose validity is based on certain suppositions such as the belief by definition that the internal cognitive process of non-human animals can be studied scientifically.
It is unclear whether the study of behavior in comparative perspective, without reference to cognition, would fit within this endeavor at all. Conversely, comparative psychology represents a broader scientific field encompassing any number of theoretical perspectives that can be employed to make inter-species phenotypic comparisons e.
Therefore, to reduce comparative psychology to comparative cognition would foreclose upon a large portion of possible theory space. Moreover, given that undergraduates are heavily influenced in their choice of discipline by the existence of curricular specializations, the increasing paucity of opportunities to undertake a program of comparative psychology is likely driving students—and psychology majors in particular—away from engagement with this important field.
Comparative psychology as a separate and distinct discipline was a vital and important branch of psychology and can be so once again if we act soon. Comparative psychology has much to offer undergraduate students with regard to the development of critical thinking skills, personal exploration, cultivating a comprehensive view of the world around them, and the ability to apply their skills in both academic and applied fields Moran, ; White, Many contemporary problems such as racism and gender bias would be better addressed by using the methods of comparative psychology Abramson and Lack, Comparative psychologists are specifically trained to make valid comparisons and to expose those that are invalid.
Training in comparative psychology is a fine example of the importance of a liberal arts education. Many authors have commented on the problems associated with comparative psychology. These include the use of a restricted number of species Beach, ; Bitterman, , lack of an appreciation of evolutionary theory Lockard, ; Hodos and Campbell, ; Kalat, , decline in the number of animal facilities available for comparative research Gallup and Eddy, , scientists who begin their career as comparative psychologists only to change disciplines Dewsbury, , the expense and resources needed to fund a comparative program Dewsbury, ; Varnon and Abramson, , few articles containing more than one species Lester, , whether animals are needed for psychological research Bowd, ; Robinson, , and a lack of jobs Dewsbury, All of these issues have contributed to the crises we now face.
In , we surveyed the undergraduate course catalogs of the academic institutions that Forbes Magazine considers the best. Of the course catalogs searched, only 82 This figure is probably overestimated because we could not determine if the course is actually taught.
Certainly one can reasonably argue that the information obtained in a comparative course is included in other course offerings such as evolutionary psychology, animal behavior, and learning processes. This may be so, but as I mentioned in the introductory comments comparative psychology is unique. It is interesting to note that there is not a graduate program in comparative psychology at the very institutions where the last two comparative texts were written Texas Christian University and Wichita State University.
Comparative psychology is seldom mentioned in introductory psychology textbooks. This is extremely unfortunate because introductory texts provide the initial source materials for students. They also serve an important function for students because they help identify possible careers Coleman et al. We examined 13 contemporary introductory textbooks Huffman, ; Gray, ; Lilienfeld et al. Only four mention comparative psychology! Nothing in these descriptions encourages the reader to learn more about comparative psychology.
Our most egregious error is not making it fundamentally clear to students that comparative psychology is concerned with human behavior. Over the years, I have asked students at the beginning of the semester what they think comparative psychology is. The vast majority believe that the course will focus on how the comparative method is applied, for example, to an analysis of culture and social practices and how these human behaviors relate to those found in animals.
Others have comment on the philosophical implications. The comparative analysis of human and animal behavior is one of the major philosophical controversies in the intellectual tradition of the West Muckler, A similar connection can be found in the comparative texts of Warden et al.
Students must be taught that comparative psychology meets the need of employers that are looking for trained individuals with broad-based problem solving ability. Undergraduate students in comparative psychology learn about analogies, homologies, subject variables, environmental variables, observation skills, etc…They are confronted with fascinating challenges in experimental design, apparatus construction, and data interpretation.
An undergraduate student with a degree emphasizing comparative psychology will be in high demand in the business world. Such a plan can include courses such as comparative, cross-cultural, developmental, experimental design, history, learning, psychology of aging, and quantitative methods. In addition, they can take courses in animal behavior, behavioral genetics, economics, evolution, introductory biology, and neuroscience.
The number of on-line courses offered by psychology departments is increasing. There is little doubt that on-line courses should be part of the future of comparative psychology course offerings.
Many universities offer development fees for the creation of on-line courses and have the suitable production facilities. Kit Nast seeks out faculty and graduate students to highlight possible careers in psychology; comparative psychology is among the videos www.
I would also recommend those interested in finding graduate students to submit a grant to the National Science Foundation—Research Experience for Undergraduates Program with a comparative focus Page et al. I believe that the lack of student exercises contributes to the decline of comparative psychology. Over the years, I have developed classroom exercises using both invertebrates and vertebrates Abramson, , ; Abramson et al. In project petscope, the local pet store becomes a comparative behavior research center.
Another interesting exercise is to turn comparative psychologists into official United States Postage Stamps. The stamps can include QR codes that, when scanned, lead the user to websites Abramson and Long, We have also adapted the Parallax Propeller microcontroller Parallax Inc.
A comparative laboratory can literally be placed in the palm of your hand and carried from office to classroom. We have developed a full range of teaching related programs that are freely available Varnon and Abramson, Donald Dewsbury writes about the history of comparative psychology and the issues which confront us. While these threats continue to be faced by comparative psychologists in the twenty-first century, there is one threat that has not to my knowledge been recognized or addressed before now—where is the next generation of comparative psychologists going to come from?
We must develop a cadre of undergraduates that can fill our graduate programs. What graduate programs? Where are they? As I reported earlier, there are only a handful of graduate programs in comparative psychology and some of these are not PhD programs. While I am cognizant of the many difficulties associated with creating a comparative psychology graduate program, at Oklahoma State University, we have addressed this problem by going to a track system with comparative-neurobiology as one of the tracks.
While we actually have three comparative psychologists among our faculty, this is not enough to have a viable comparative program. Our students are able to take courses from such departments as animal science, engineering, human development, philosophy, sociology, veterinary medicine, and zoology. The track system in conjunction with the use of affiliated faculty may be a model suitable for many other universities. If any faculty member needs assistance in implementing any of the ideas presented in this paper, I will gladly assist.
The author declares that the research was conducted in the absence of any commercial or financial relationships that could be construed as a potential conflict of interest. I would like to acknowledge the assistance of Angela N. Axelrod in preparation of this manuscript. I am especially indebted to Dr. Lukaszewski and Jeffrey R. Stevens for their helpful comments and discussions. National Center for Biotechnology Information , U.
Journal List Front Psychol v. Front Psychol. Published online Oct 2. Charles I. Author information Article notes Copyright and License information Disclaimer. Brodbeck, Algoma University, Canada. Abramson, ude.
This article was submitted to Comparative Psychology, a section of the journal Frontiers in Psychology. Received Mar 31; Accepted Sep Keywords: comparative psychology, recruitment, undergraduates, graduate programs, education. The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author s or licensor are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.
See commentary " Commentary: A crisis in comparative psychology: where have all the undergraduates gone? See commentary " From Crisis to Crowd Control. See commentary " Educational interventions need evidence too.
Commentary: A crisis in comparative psychology: where have all the undergraduates gone? See commentary " A clarion call or a swan song? See commentary " It's just evolution. See commentary " What's in a name?
Commentary: A crisis in comparative psychology: where have all the undergraduates gone " in volume 6, See commentary " Enhancing Student Interest in Animals. See commentary " Keep Calm and Comp. This article has been cited by other articles in PMC. Introduction Comparative psychology can generally be defined as the branch of psychology that studies the similarities and differences in the behavior of organisms.
Problems recruiting students: Few colleges and universities offer courses in comparative psychology In , we surveyed the undergraduate course catalogs of the academic institutions that Forbes Magazine considers the best. Comparative psychology as portrayed in introductory psychology texts Comparative psychology is seldom mentioned in introductory psychology textbooks.
Several themes have emerged from the chapters in this volume. Some tensions exist between researchers seeking to answer questions concerning the adaptive purpose of human and nonhuman behaviors and capacities, and researchers seeking to shed light on the evolutionary forces giving rise to such traits. These tensions may be dissipated if several unnecessary dichotomies are avoided and researchers thereby embraced nonmutually exclusive stances to different methodological and theoretical approaches. We suggest that, if all researchers with similar goals unite under the single unifying framework of evolutionary theory, many more advances can be made and a more focused field of study will emerge. Keywords: evolutionary framework , dichotomy , unifying , tensions. Psychology has lagged behind the other natural sciences, which operate under a single unifying theoretical framework.
John B. The key ideas in the article were, a. These ideas can be seen to have been present before Watson and in the literature of his day. The article itself did not have a great immediate impact on psychology. Comparative psychology around had been strong but was entering a period of partial dormancy from which it recovered during the s and s. Comparative psychology matured in subsequent decades. The impact of behaviorism varied through different phases of its development.
Their commentary 1 critiques some aspects of our methodology and argues that our work does not constitute evidence that chimpanzees can actually cook; 2 claims that these results are old news, as previous work had already demonstrated that chimpanzees possess most or all of these capacities; and, finally, 3 argues that comparative psychological studies of chimpanzees cannot adequately address questions about human evolution, anyway. However, their critique of the premise of our study simply reiterates several points we made in the original paper. Furthermore, the methodological issues they raise are standard points about psychological research with animals—many of which were addressed synthetically across our 9 experiments, or else are orthogonal to our claims. Finally, we argue that comparative studies of extant apes and other nonhuman species are a powerful and indispensable method for understanding human cognitive evolution.
Andrews, United Kingdom. Email address: jc st-andrews. It is a great pleasure to write the editorial piece for the special issue of the International Journal of Psychological Research devoted to Comparative Psychology. Fortunately, the contributors and editors to this issue have greatly facilitated my task by putting together a super special issue that reflects the richness and diversity of our discipline.
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