Notes on Human Ethology

Human Ethology is a subdiscipline of Biology that studies the biological bases of behavior. The field used to be called comparative psychology (animal psychology). Ethological theory draws upon Darwin's theory of evolution. Human ethologists also incorporated ideas from psychoanalytic theory (Freud) into their analyses. Today, evolutionary psychologists continue on the tradition of using evolutionary theory as a guide for understanding human behavior patterns.

Ethological research focuses on human and animal behavior as it occurs in natural environments, particularly as it occurs in the environments to which a species has to adapt during the course of its evolutionary history. Ethological Research employs naturalistic observation and sometimes uses natural experiments. Ethologists prefer experiments in natural settings to those conducted in laboratories.

Key Concepts associated with ethology include
1) fixed action patterns (innate, promote individual survival - nut-opening in squirrels, nest building in birds, human crying and smiling),
2) sign stimuli (releasers or triggers for fixed action patterns),
3) the notion of imprinting (critical periods in development), and

To handout on attachment theory.

Back to human development course handouts archive.

last update 8/24/03 / jka