Worlds of David Darling
Encyclopedia of Science
   
Home > Encyclopedia of Science

animal behavior




The responses of animals to internal and external stimuli. Study of these responses can enable advances to be made in our understanding of human psychology and behavior. Animal responses may be learned by the animal during its lifetime or may be instinctive or inherited.

Even the simplest animals are capable of learning – to associate a particular stimulus with pain or pleasure, to negotiate mazes, etc. Moreover, there are critical periods in an animal's life when it is capable of learning a great deal in a very short time. Thus baby geese hatched in the absence of the mother will follow the first moving object they see, other animal or a human being. If, later, they must choose between this other animal and their mother, they prefer the other animal. This rapid early learning is called imprinting.

Among even the most intelligent animals much behavior is instinctive: the shape of a baby's head, for instance, evokes an instinctive parental response in humans. The complicated dance of bees, by which they inform the hive of the whereabouts of food, each species of bee having its own "dialect," is an example of more complex instinctive behavior. Instinctive ritual, too, plays its part. Instinct can determine the behavior os a single animal, or of a whole animal society.


Related category

   • ZOOLOGY