The study of animal behavior is a cornerstone of experimental psychology, shedding light on how animals interact with each other and with their environments, and why they behave the way they do. By studying animal behavior, humans can learn more about their own behavior.
Animal behavior research is particularly relevant to the study of human behavior when it comes to preservation of a species, or how an animal’s behavior helps it survive. For example, the behavior of animals in stressful or aggressive situations can be studied to help find solutions for humans in similar circumstances. Animal behavior research also contributes to the study of genetics by helping to resolve questions of nature vs. nurture, or which behaviors genes control and which behaviors the environment controls.
Animal-assisted therapy, where dogs, horses and other domestic animals help facilitate therapy, can be helpful for those who are socially isolated, coping with a diagnosis on the autism spectrum, or suffering from a mood disorder or post-traumatic stress. Interacting with animals has been found to increase human levels of oxytocin, a hormone that enhances social bonding. Animal behaviorists are also interested in the ways animals themselves can benefit from their relationships with humans.