Methods of studying instincts, Method of observation...

Methods of learning instincts

Observation and Registration Method

The most common and common method of studying instinct as a form of animal behavior is observation. Description of the animal's behavior, comparison of its characteristics in different species, determining the nature of behavior depending on the seasons of the year , the time of day, the presence of other animals, etc. for many generations of scientists was the main method of studying instinct. This method could not be used to study such issues as the origin of the instinct, the physiological mechanisms that lie in its implementation, the role of inherited elements acquired in a typical behavior for a given kind, etc. At the same time, it is to the work of bona fide observers and the descriptive method that the doctrine of instinct is due to very important information.

If the naturalists of the XVIII century. limited the study of instinct by simple observation and comparison of these observations with different kinds of animals, then in the 19th century. a great place in the work of naturalists begins to occupy the experiment. The researchers deliberately set before the animals they study a number of problems, artificially create for them different situations, which allows us to answer already many questions of the origin of individual instinctive actions.

Along with the experiment, the observational technique is developing, which, in connection with the development of instrumentation, film and photography, and a large number of physico-chemical methods, is on the way to completely objective recording of animal behavior. Equipping with technical means not only increased the accuracy of registration, but also had the positive side that excluded the inevitable subjective interpretation of the phenomena under investigation in arbitrary descriptions.

Such manifestations of animal life as the reception and acquisition of food, play, mating behavior, maternal behavior have become the subject of registration with a quantitative evaluation in time and space. Physical and chemical changes in the environment during the experiment were also recorded.

This does not mean that the observation with a simple eye and the registration of observed phenomena have lost their significance. Many manifestations of activity have to be studied in this way, however, the observation of observed phenomena became more objective.

The greatest place in the observations of instinctive activity is the sequential study (registration) of the motor acts of the animal in a particular life situation. Such a technique is called cataloging behavior or compiling etogram. Usually the technique of recording is filming, schemes that characterize typical forms of animal behavior. This method is especially important when studying the so-called expressive forms of behavior. This line of research originates from Darwin's remarkable work "On the expression of sensations in humans and animals," which gave an unrivaled analysis of the manifestations of the community of expressions of sensations in animals and humans, and thus laid a solid foundation for studying the evolution of behavior.


The etograms can be presented in the form of a table of characteristics that coincide and do not coincide in different animals, signs that characterize the behavior of representatives of this species during certain periods of the biological cycle (nutrition, mating, rearing, herd relations, etc.). Based on the comparison of such tables, separate typical behavioral elements are distinguished and their inheritance, mutational variability, etc. are studied.

Comparison of etograms as objective criteria of specific forms of behavior is relevant in the study of ontogeny and phylogenesis of its individual forms, as well as in studying the origin of more complex forms of behavior from simpler forms.

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