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Ethology is the scientific study of animal behavior. A scientist who practices ethology is called an ethologist.

Differences and similarities with comparative psychology[]

Ethology can be contrasted with comparative psychology, which also studies animal behaviour, but construes its study as a branch of psychology. Thus where comparative psychology sees the study of animal behaviour in the context of what is known about human psychology, ethology sees the study of animal behaviour in the context of what is known about animal anatomy and physiology. Furthermore, early comparative psychologists concentrated on the study of learning, and thus tended to look at behaviour in artificial situations, whereas early ethologists concentrated on behaviour in natural situations, tending to describe it as instinctive. The two approaches are complementary rather than competitive, but they do lead to different perspectives and sometimes to conflicts of opinion about matters of substance. In addition, for most of the twentieth century comparative psychology developed most strongly in North America, while ethology was stronger in Europe, and this led to different emphases as well as somewhat different philosophical underpinnings in the two disciplines. A practical difference is that comparative psychologists concentrated on gaining extensive knowledge of the behaviour of very few species, while ethologists were more interested in gaining knowledge of behaviour in a wide range of species, not least in order to be able to make principled comparisons across taxonomic groups.

For more see: Introduction to animal ethology

Main areas of study[]

The main areas of study within the discipline include:

See also[]

References & Bibliography[]

Key texts[]


  • Bekoff, M (2004) Encyclopedia of Animal Behavior. 3vols. Greenwood Press.
  • Grzimek, B.(1977), Grzimek's Encyclopedia of Ethology
  • McFarland, D.(1999). Animal Behaviour: Psychobiology, Ethology and Evolution. Longman. ISBN: 0582327326 ISBN: 9780582327320


Additional material[]


  • Drickamer, L. & Dewsbury, D. ( ), Leaders in Animal Behaviour. The Second Generation. Cambridge University Press. ISBN: 9780521741293
  • Dewsbury, D. A. (1978) Habits and behaviour of Animals : McGraw-Hill,New York ; London. ISBN: 0070166730


External links[]

  • [CSA Animal Behavior Abstracts] - A Cambridge Scientific Abstracts Database covering all aspects of animal behaviour, including neurophysiology, behavioral ecology, genetics, applied ethology and other related areas.From !982 onwards
  • Wikibook on animal behavior