PSY252 Lecture 1 January 10, 2014
- Tests: MC, T/F, SA and LA
o 2 hrs.
What is Behaviour?
- Behavior is the subject’s movement in space and time (methodological definition)
- Behavior is the window to the brain (experimental neuroscientist’s definition)
o Measuring behavior allows you to analyze and ask question about brain functions
- Behavior is the output of the brain
o Consciousness, beliefs, etc.
- Even the most complex behavioral phenomena are the result of the functioning of the
Psychology and Biology
- Psychology deals with numerous aspects of animal and human behavior.
- Psychology traditionally belonged to Social Sciences and sometimes treated the brain as
a “black box”.
o Un-open able, un-investigable entity
- Nowadays the discipline is regarded as part of Natural Sciences and psychology uses
numerous concepts and methods of biology.
Two fundamentally distinct questions
- Proximate question (phenogenetic causation)
o Concerns the biological & physiological mechanisms of behaviour.
o That is: “How do things work?”
- Ultimate question (phylogenetic causation)
o Is it adaptive, why is it adaptive?
o Always about evolution
o Concerns the evolution and adaptive aspect of behaviour.
o That is: “How did it come about?”
Why study animal behavior when human behavior is most interesting? - Animal behaviour is just as interesting.
- There are many species of animals with many different behaviours (comparative
o Humans are only one species, whereas there is enormous diversity in animal
o Comparing species to understand evolutionary features (can create evolutionary
o Where these differences come from, what conditions cause these species to
generate differences (ex. Different temperatures).
- Ethical considerations.
o Genetics: breeding experiments
- There are many methods with which behaviour can be studied in animals but not in
- Medical research (model organisms and laboratory animals as tools for discovery).
o Reductionist approach – focus on animals rather than humans, using simple
animals to understand something rather than complicated human
o Used to understand human cases (Alzheimer’s, can try different treatment
options on animals before taking them to humans).
How can we study animal behavior?
- Two fundamentally different approaches in the past:
o In the past: laboratory experimentation ignored experimentation in their natural
o Ignored unique features of organism
o Importance was put on similarities between animal (ex. Rat) and human
- Animal psychology
o Controlled laboratory conditions
o Nature blind
o Focuses on genera