How is animal behavior formed?
Ekaterina Kastritskaya, psychologist, specialist in animal therapy, consultant on animal behavior and well-being
Watching the behavior of animals, people often ask themselves: “Why do animals behave this way and not otherwise? How is animal behavior formed? ” Researchers of animal behavior were asked the same question, believing that each behavioral element should have its own reason. What makes animals behave in one way or another?
Four questions from Nico Tinbergen about how animal behavior is shaped
The famous scientist Nicholas (Niko) Tinbergen, Nobel Prize winner, has developed four questions, the answers to which help to understand how the behavior of animals is formed, and explain the behavior of any animal.
Any animal behavior has:
- Reason. What causes this or that behavior? The cause of this or that behavior can be internal and external incentives. For example, when a dog feels thirsty, it searches for a source of water - in this case, the behavior is caused by an internal stimulus. When an animal is hot, it seeks to climb into the shadows, or when it hears a loud sound, it runs away - these are external stimuli.
- Development. How and when does this behavior appear and how does it develop during the life of a particular animal? Very young animals, as a rule, do not excel too much in hunting. And with age, some animals lose interest in games. Also, a person teaches animals this or that behavior, consciously or without being aware of it. For example, we teach a dog the “Sit” command or, without realizing it, we teach that a leash in our hands portends a walk.
- Evolutionary significance. How does this behavior contribute to the survival of the species as a whole? For example, a game in childhood teaches animals to either hunt, which means to get food in adulthood, or to run away from a predator, which means saving their life.
- Function. How does this behavior help a particular animal survive and reproduce (that is, transmit its genes to descendants)? For example, social behavior enhances the cohesion of a group, which means that it helps each individual member live longer and happier, including multiplying. As a result, it is this behavior that is passed on to the next generation.
The answers to these questions allow us to understand why animals, including those living in our house, behave in one way or another, how the behavior of animals is formed, and also what exactly affects this or that behavior.
So, we have the opportunity to understand the needs of pets and to influence their behavior, changing it in the direction we need.