What Does the Study of Psychology Look at Animal Behavior?

Animal Behavior is a branch of psychology that studies animals of all kinds. Animal behaviorists include ethologists and comparative psychologists. Ethologists begin their careers by studying animal sciences such as zoology, while comparative psychologists are usually trained in departments of psychology.

Animal behaviorists are interested in why animals behave the way they do. They ask questions about how animal behavior develops and how animals adapt their behaviors to their environment. Most animal behaviorists find employment in academic settings, researching and teaching for colleges or universities. A small number of animal behaviorists work for the government or in private laboratories.

The work of animal behaviorists is important to industries like wildlife management, livestock management and pest control. Others work in zoos and wildlife parks, where they support animal populations. The study of animal behavior is helpful to animal trainers, veterinarians and others who work with animals. Understanding animal behavior is also helpful to industries like fishing and recreational hunting.

Comparative psychologists apply what they learn about animal behavior to human society. For example, psychologists who study animal infanticide use their data to better understand human child abuse. Scientists' studies of aggression in monkeys and other primates helps us understand human aggression and violence. Studies of monkeys have also contributed a great deal to our understanding of child development.

Some famous comparative psychologists include Jean Piaget, Harry Harlow and Temple Grandin. Piaget applied his discoveries about snails to his understanding of human cognitive development. Harlow studied rhesus monkeys and used his data to better understand child social development. Grandin, author of the essay "Animals Are Not Things," is famous for developing methods to make livestock slaughter more humane.