Comparative Psychology

It was Charles Darwin and Georges Romanes who started the modern research on animal behavior. This branch of study has continued to develop into a multidisciplinary subject. Today, psychologists, ecologists, biologists anthropologists, geneticists and many others scientists contribute to the study of animal behavior. So what is Comparative psychology? It is the branch of psychology related to the study of animal behavior. Read on to know more about Comparative psychology.

Comparative psychology generally refers to the study of the mental behavior and life of animals other than human beings. But many psychologists and scientists do not always have the same opinion on this definition. Comparative psychology has also been expresses as branch of psychology in which cross-species comparisons are laid stress on, which can also include human-to-animal comparisons. The study of Comparative psychology often uses the comparative process to study animal behavior, which comprises of comparing the similarities and differences among species, so as to gain better understanding of evolutionary relationships. This comparative method is also used to evaluate modern species of animals when compared to ancient species.

The main topics in the study of Comparative Psychology are – Evolution, Heredity, Adaptation and learning, Mating and parenting behaviors.

Many researchers and scientists feel that the sole emphasis of comparative psychology should not be the direct comparisons. Studying the behavior of a single organism should be just as desirable. Donald Dewsbury, after reviewing the works of several psychologists and their definitions, came to the conclusion that the main objective of comparative psychology is to institute principles of generality laying stress on both proximate and ultimate causation.

Moving on with the info on Comparative psychology, it has often been suggested to discard the term itself, as it fails to be descriptive of the field. But no suitable replacement has been found. As a precise definition of comparative psychology, it can be defined as a psychology concerned with the evolution – the phylogenetic history and adaptive significance and development that is the ontogenetic history and mechanism of behavior.

Using a comparative approach to study animal behavior allows one to assess the target behavior from four different, complementary viewpoints. The two main questions which provide a theory for the eventual grounds of behavior are, first, how pervasive is the behavior is across species and secondly, what is the contribution of the behavior to the lifetime reproductive success of the individuals. Comparative psychologists also study the mechanisms involved in the behavior, like the various physiological, behavioral, and environmental components, which are necessary for the generation of the behavior. The scientists also study the maturational, learning and social experiences that an individual must experience in order to display a certain behavior. These form the basis of the proximate causes of behavior.

A large variety of animal species have been used and studied by comparative psychologists. For example, dogs have been the focus of occasional studies in comparative psychology as well as most kinds of domestic animals like cats and the rats too.