Psychology, a field of study in which knowing why people behave the way do is an important aspect into advancing our knowledge and our understanding of humans and human behavior. In order to achieve this advance, psychologists undergo research-involving animals. You might be thinking, what things can animals do to explain why I behave the way I do, well, the answer is, a lot! Although Animals are not humans, by studying animals and animal behavior psychologist along with many other people have been able to prove time and again that animals are part of the key into clearing up the storm that is human behavior.
Animal behavior, the way different kinds of animals behave, which has fascinated inquiring minds since at least the time of Plato and Aristotle. The things that have been particularly intriguing are the animals ability to perform complicated tasks, such as, weave a web, build a nest, sing a song, find a home, or capture food, with little or no instruction. Such behavior can be viewed from two very different perspectives. Either animals learn everything they do from “nurture”, or they know what to do instinctively from nature. Neither extreme has proven to be correct. Many different people, who have had many different theories, have done research for centuries on animal behavior.
One of the best-known theories on animal behavior is the behaviorist theory whose best-known figures are probably J. B. Watson and B. F. Skinner. “Strict behaviorists hold that all behavior, even breathing and the circulation of blood, according to Watson, is learned; they believe that animals are, in effect, born as blank slates upon which chance and experience are to write their messages”. Through conditioning, they believe an animal’s behavior is formed. Behaviorists recognize two sorts of conditioning, classical conditioning and operant conditioning. In the late 19th century the Russian physiologist Ivan Pavlov discovered classical conditioning while studying digestion. He found that dogs automatically salivate at the sight of food. The dogs salivating at the sight of food is an unconditioned response to an unconditioned stimulus. If Pavlov always rang a bell when he offered food, the dogs began slowly to associate the ringing of the bell, which was irrelevant to the stimulus of food, eventually the sound of the bell alone could cause salivation. “Therefore, the dogs had learned to associate a certain cue with food”. Behaviorists see salivation as a simple reflex behavior, something like the knee-jerk reflex doctor’s trigger when they tap a patient’s knee with a hammer. The other category in learning would be operant conditioning. Operant conditioning works on the principle of punishment or reward. “In operant conditioning, a rat, for example, is taught to press a bar for food by first being rewarded for facing the correct end of the cage. Next being rewarded only when it stands next to the bar, then only when it touches the bar with its body, and so on, until the behavior is shaped to suit the task”. Behaviorists believe that this sort of trial and error learning, combined with the associative learning of Pavlov, can serve to link any number of reflexes and simple responses into complex chains that depend on whatever cues nature provides. “To an extreme behaviorist, then, animals must learn all the behavioral patterns that they need to know”.
Perhaps on of the greatest known of the naturalist, Charles Darwin had his own theories on animal behavior. Darwin’s theory was “evolution by natural selection”. This theory was basically this, when an organism is born it is only concerned with survival. It will naturally do whatever it takes in order to survive. Darwin believed that the adaptations that were necessary for survival were passed on from generation to generation. Therefore, each generation will improve adaptively over the preceding generations and this gradual and continuous process is the source of the evolution of species. “Natural selection is only part of Darwin’s vast conceptual scheme” he also introduced the concept that all related organisms are descended from common ancestors. Through the naturalist philosophy, many people have been able to develop many theories between human and animal behavior.
Animal research has contributed greatly to the knowledge of why humans act the way they do. Animal research has shown learning processes and methods such as, operant conditioning and classical conditioning. Animal research has also contributed to the knowledge of motivational systems, such as hunger, thirst, and reproduction. Animal Research has provided information on vision, taste, hearing, and pain. Animal research has allowed us to learn the affect of drugs on humans, and has donated to many treatments in such things as self-esteem, autistic children, and genetics. Animal research has aided in the advances in human society in all aspects of life and should be continued as long as the cost does not out-weigh the benefits.
Animal research has contributed many things to the understanding human behavior. Through studies done such as Charles Darwin’s and Ivan Pavlov’s we have been able to uncover many mysteries about human behaviors such as learning styles, emotions, and physical characteristics. In order to better understand why humans behave the way do, we will need to continue our research on animal behavior to enable us to better understand why we do the things we do.