New Aspects of Human Ethology

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Human Ethology

Origins and Prospects of a New Discipline
  • Irenäus Eibl-EibesfeldtAffiliated withMax-Planck-Institut für Verhaltensphysiologie/Humanethologie

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With the discovery of the conditioned reflexes, I. P. Pavlov introduced into the behavioral sciences a promising experimental approach and the hope that even the most complex behaviors could be explained by stepwise associative integration starting from some elementary precursors. In the United States of America, the school of Behaviorism fostered stimulus-response psychology, focussing on the experimental investigation of learning processes. “Experience” became an all-encompassing explanatory principle for students of the ontogeny of behavior.Z. Y Kuo’s (1932, 1967) speculations on the development of the pecking response of the chick within the egg were widely quoted as evidence for the experiental shaping of behavior during embryosis. That chaffinches which in their eggs are exposed to nearly identical experiences as the chick embryo, however, develop a gaping response instead, did not occur as a problem to the “environmentalists.”1