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behavior,in biology: see ethologyethology,
study of animal behavior based on the systematic observation, recording, and analysis of how animals function, with special attention to physiological, ecological, and evolutionary aspects.
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a system of interrelated actions, performed by a subject for the purpose of carrying out a definite function, and requiring the interaction of the subject with the environment. In a broad sense, behavior is ascribed to diverse objects, such as an electron in a magnetic field or a cyclone. In a scientific sense, the term “behavior” refers chiefly to a purposeful system of actions, or the aggregate of actions of a living individual. Since the middle of the 20th century the term “behavior” has been conventionally applied to complex automatic systems in modern technology.
The general preconditions for behavior in living organisms are a subject with a definite organization that permits the construction of a purposeful system of actions; an object toward which the behavior is directed, to the extent that it contains the goal of behavior; and a definite program of behavior and a mechanism for evaluating the effectiveness with which it is implemented. Depending on the level of organization of the subject, behavior is classified as biological, psychological, or sociological. Each of these levels is studied by a particular discipline.
Research on behavior dates from the end of the 19th century. At first, it focused on animal behavior, and specifically on the interaction of the biological individual with the environment. The mechanism of this interaction was explained on the basis of classical reflex theory, which defined behavior as the aggregate of reflexes and considered each act of behavior a response of the organism to an external stimulus (a reflex arc). This approach made it possible to discover the physiological bases of behavior and the principles of its neurocerebral regulation.
Behavior received a broader biological treatment as a result of the development of ethology and closely related disciplines, especially animal psychology and behavior genetics. Ethological research made it possible to establish the fact that the general pattern of behavior in animals has two principal components—a relatively rigid structure that is transmitted genetically, and functional patterns of behavior acquired through experience and learning and superimposed on the first, or hereditary, structure. Genetically determined behavior is expressed chiefly in innate instincts (see). The functional patterns of behavior include the subjective evaluation of a situation. In higher animals an essential role is played by rational elements—specifically, the ability to extrapolate from previous experience to new situations.
Since reflex theory does not explain the active character of behavior, there have been various attempts to construct an acceptable explanation. For example, in the physiology of activity, the diagram of the reflex arc has been developed into a diagram of the reflex cycle, including some supplementary links, and particularly a model or image of a desired future condition. However, the proposed diagrams have not yet received sufficient experimental confirmation.
Among the important trends in the biological analysis of behavior is the study of superorganismic levels of behavior (behavior in populations and communities and aspects of behavior that are characteristic of a particular species). At this level, a major role is played by genetically determined structures of group behavior, which are extremely diverse in tendency, ranging from aggressiveness to altruism, and which substantially influence the character and stability of communications in communities of animals. The study of these problems has made it possible to establish that in biological evolution, behavior is simultaneously an object and a factor, with a noticeable effect on rates and results. Modern science is rapidly accumulating a great deal of empirical data on animal behavior, and a number of generalized theories have been proposed. However, a single generally accepted theory has not yet been constructed.
Behavior is one of the principal categories in psychology. In general, behaviorism reduced research on the mind to the study of behavior that fits the stimulus-response pattern, ignoring the behavior-forming links that lie between stimulus and response in a system of behavior. Consequently, the behaviorists overlooked the characteristics that distinguish human behavior from animal behavior—characteristics that are determined by man’s social nature.
In modern psychology the central category is not behavior but activity. As a result, behavior is viewed as the external component of objective activity. Because the concept of activity unites the affective (emotive) and cognitive aspects of the mind, it accents the structural stability and purposeful organization of the system of mental actions—that is, the cognitive aspect, the logic of a plan and its realization, and the objective and social determination of a particular system of actions. The concept of behavior emphasizes the forms of mental self-expression less rigidly connected with the intellect but nevertheless more directly dependent on the emotional, volitional, and evaluative spheres of consciousness. Thus, behavioral acts are separate links, moments, and forms in a system of activity. They play an important role because they embody the internal relationship of the subject to the activity and thus substantially influence the total evaluation of the activity.
The difference between behavior and activity is even more pronounced in sociology and social psychology than in psychology. These disciplines regard activity primarily as a social and philosophical category. (For example, in Marxism, “activity” is one of the basic concepts in the explanation of social development.) The concept of “behavior” is used to characterize not always conscious forms and stereotypes of the individual’s self-expression in the social environment—forms that are assimilated by the individual in the course of socialization and education. In concrete social research the concept of “social action,” which to a certain extent unifies the content of the concepts of “behavior” and “activity,” most adequately captures the meaning of the activity of the individual.
In technical systems the concept of “behavior” means a system’s capacity for actions connected not only with the realization of a certain aggregate of functions but also with the necessity to make optimal decisions in situations that present alternatives.
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Miller, G., E. Galanter, and K. Pribram. Plany i struktura povedeniia. Moscow, 1965. (Translated from English.)
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E. G. IUDIN