Marler, Peter R. Field Research Center, Millbrook, New York.
Last reviewed:December 2019
- Innate release mechanisms
- Fixed-action patterns
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The study of animal behavior. Modern ethology includes many different approaches, but the original emphasis, as expounded by Konrad Lorenz and Niko Tinbergen, was placed on the natural behavior of animals. This contrasted with the focus of comparative psychologists on behavior in artificial laboratory situations such as mazes and puzzle boxes. Ethologists view the naturalistic approach as crucial because it reveals the environmental and social circumstances in which the behavior originally evolved and prepares the way for more realistically designed laboratory experiments. The approach goes back to the stress that Charles Darwin placed on hereditary contributions to behavior in all species, including humans. Viewing behavior as a product of evolutionary history has helped to elucidate many otherwise puzzling aspects of its biology and has paved the way for the new science of neuroethology, concerned with how the structure and functioning of the brain controls behavior and makes learning possible.
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