The World of Animals

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.

Recent posts on Animal Behavior

Choosing Dogs that can Breathe

By Zazie Todd Ph.D. on February 18, 2018 in Fellow Creatures
Why are breeds such as Bulldogs, French Bulldogs and Pugs so popular despite health issues due to short faces? Appearance and emotion influence people's choices.

Lessons from Love and Loss

By Frances Kuffel on February 18, 2018 in What Fat Women Want
As we crammed the protesting dervish into her crate for our flight back to New York, my brother said, “You know, you don’t have to keep her. Not every dog is right for everybody.”

Teaching New Zealand Kids to Kill Animals is Very Worrisome

By Marc Bekoff Ph.D. on February 16, 2018 in Animal Emotions
A video showing New Zealand youngsters being taught to kill "pests" should be of concern because of the link between violence toward nonhuman animals and violence toward humans.
Courtesy of Alex Pattakos and Elaine Dundon

Meaningful Life Lessons I Learned From My Dog

By Alex Pattakos Ph.D. on February 15, 2018 in The Meaningful Life
How our pets provide us with a source of meaning.

Do Psychiatric Service Dogs Really Help Veterans with PTSD?

By Hal Herzog Ph.D. on February 15, 2018 in Animals and Us
A new study by researchers at Purdue University offers the first empirical evidence that veterans with PTSD benefit from having a psychiatric service dog.

Bestiality: Hidden Facts About the Sexual Abuse of Nonhumans

By Marc Bekoff Ph.D. on February 14, 2018 in Animal Emotions
An essay "Zoophilia: A Hidden Horror for Animals" that offers a brief summary about what is known about humans having all sorts of sex with other animals is disturbingly shocking.

Is Emotional Attachment to Dogs a Modern Development?

By Stanley Coren PhD., DSc, FRSC on February 14, 2018 in Canine Corner
Recent paleontological analysis shows that humans had an emotional bond to dogs as far back as the early Stone Age
David Kovalenko/Unsplash

Do You Really Know Why You Do The Things You Do?

By Ozgun Atasoy Ph.D. on February 14, 2018 in The Hidden Prospect
How much do we know about the reasons for our decisions?

Canine Science Isn't a Soft Science: Hard Dog Data Abound

By Marc Bekoff Ph.D. on February 11, 2018 in Animal Emotions
The study of canine cognition generates a lot of detailed data showing general trends and highlighting a good deal of individual variability showing "the dog" doesn't really exist.

Companion Animals Help People with Mental Health Problems

By Marc Bekoff Ph.D. on February 10, 2018 in Animal Emotions
A review of 17 international research papers studied the extent, nature, and quality of the evidence that living with a companion animal had positive, negative, or neutral impacts.

Dogs and Guilt: We Simply Don't Know

By Marc Bekoff Ph.D. on February 09, 2018 in Animal Emotions
An widely-circulated essay misleads readers to think dogs don't feel guilt. While we may not accurately read their guilt, we don't know what they feel.

A Refreshing New Approach to the Free Will Debate

By Jeremy E Sherman Ph.D. on February 08, 2018 in Ambigamy
What could stop the free will debate from circling forever? A realistic explanation for what will is and how it emerges from aimless chemistry presented here in four short videos.

Remembering Packy the Elephant on World Zoothanasia Day

By Marc Bekoff Ph.D. on February 08, 2018 in Animal Emotions
Zoos routinely kill healthy animals to make room for more captive residents. This egregious practice is called "zoothanasia" because the individuals are not euthanized as claimed.

Choreography for the Birds

By Nigel Barber Ph.D. on February 07, 2018 in The Human Beast
When Darwin was a young man, religious people took to the hills, fields, streams, and moors to pursue enthusiasms for birds, butterflies, and flowers. Here's why.

In the Dog Park - Pets and People

By Graham Collier on February 06, 2018 in The Consciousness Question
Given the incredible range of dog personalities and behaviors, individual owners also cannot help but interest one as personalities.

Additional Evidence on the Dangers of Raw Diets for Dogs

By Stanley Coren PhD., DSc, FRSC on February 06, 2018 in Canine Corner
While raw meat based diets are becoming popular for dogs, new evidence shows that feeding dogs raw chicken leads to a massive increase in their risk of a serious paralytic disease

Free-Ranging Dogs Assess Relative Group Size by Subitizing

By Marc Bekoff Ph.D. on February 06, 2018 in Animal Emotions
Many animals can make accurate assessments of quantity. Researchers say they have a quantitative sense of numbers, often called numerosity, even if they can't count like we do.

Do Pets Really Reduce Healthcare Costs?

By John Bradshaw Ph.D. on February 06, 2018 in Pets and Their People
Claims that pets make their owners healthier oversimplify the complex psychology of pet ownership.

Dogs and Object Permanence

By Art Markman Ph.D. on February 05, 2018 in Ulterior Motives
The work of Jean Piaget shaped our understanding of cognitive development in children, and it also gave us several tasks that we can use to study other animals.

Rats Cut Deals and Trade Different Favors With One Another

By Marc Bekoff Ph.D. on February 05, 2018 in Animal Emotions
A new study shows laboratory rats reciprocally cooperate and follow "tit-for-tat." I help you because you previously helped me, when trading grooming for food and vice versa.

5 Reasons We Should Take Pet Loss Seriously

By Guy Winch Ph.D. on February 04, 2018 in The Squeaky Wheel
There are reasons why losing a pet causes such intense grief.

Animal Attraction: Beauty Is in the Brain of the Beholder

By Marc Bekoff Ph.D. on February 02, 2018 in Animal Emotions
"There are no free lunches in the sexual marketplace": An interview with Michael Ryan about "A Taste for the Beautiful."

Saving Dogs' Lives Can Save Human Lives

How two dogs are giving a man’s life new meaning, a hospital a new image, and mankind new hope.

Personality Affects Your Chances of Being Attacked by a Dog

By Hal Herzog Ph.D. on February 02, 2018 in Animals and Us
A new study finds that emotionally stable people are less likely to be attacked by a dog. The question is why.

Dogs of All Ages Need to be Challenged: Use it or Lose it

By Marc Bekoff Ph.D. on February 01, 2018 in Animal Emotions
A new study reports dogs show a decline in attention span, but not selective attention, as they age, and that lifelong training can delay or reduce the decline in attentiveness.

Why Some Dogs Have Floppy Ears and Wolves Don't

Floppy ears are virtually never found in wild animals, however a new theory shows that they are an unintended by-product of our domestication of dogs

The Frightful Prospect of Truth-Telling

By Seth Slater M.F.A. on January 31, 2018 in The Dolphin Divide
Further thoughts on why we lie. A little Q & A with the author —along with an invitation to add your thoughts about the tangled webs we weave when lying.

Consolation Canines: Dogs Are Not Second-Rate Booby Prizes

By Marc Bekoff Ph.D. on January 30, 2018 in Animal Emotions
The censure of James Corden for giving comfort puppies to Grammy losers is well deserved. Even if he wasn't ill-intentioned, this concern shows cruelty can't stand the spotlight.

Why I Hate Star Wars

By Eric Dietrich Ph.D. on January 30, 2018 in Excellent Beauty
Star Wars succeeds because humans are primates. Our evolution was accomplished by wicked and powerful short-term magical and selfish thinking.

Dogs and Communication

By Art Markman Ph.D. on January 29, 2018 in Ulterior Motives
If you have ever been around a dog, you know that dogs and humans are able to communicate to some degree. What do they know when they communicate?