Animal Psychology

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Animal Psychology


a branch of psychology dealing with the inner behavior of animals, its outer manifestations, origin, and development with respect to ontogeny and phylogeny. An important objective of animal psychology is the study of the biological preconditions and prehistory of the human mind. Animal psychology is related to ecology, ethology, neurophysiology, the physiology of higher nervous activity and sensory organs, and other sciences. Research on animal psychology is very important not only for other branches of psychology, especially comparative psychology, but also for the theory of knowledge, anthropology (the biological prerequisites of anthropogenesis), and other sciences, as well as for livestock breeding, fur farming, and the training of dogs and circus animals.

As early as classical times philosophers were greatly interested in the mental capacity of animals. The rise of scientific animal psychology at the end of the 18th and early 19th century is attributed to the French scientists Buffon and Lamarck, and it was later developed by C. Darwin (Great Britain). At the end of the 19th and beginning of the 20th century, European and American animal psychology was dominated by either anthropomorphic idealism or vulgar materialism. Among those who contributed to the development of animal psychology were the French scientists J. Fabre, who studied insects, and J. Loeb (theory of tropisms), the Americans E. L. Thorndike (learning in animals) and R. Yerkes (psychology of anthropoid apes and mind development), the Dutchman F. J. Bujtendijk (instinct and learning), the Germans W. Kóhler (intelligence of anthropoid apes) and W. Fischel (learning, higher mental abilities in animals), the Austrian K. von Frisch (vision in insects), and the Swiss H. Hediger (innate behavior, behavioral change in animals in contact with man). In Russia the founders of the scientific study of animals’ mental activity were K. F. Rul’e and V. A. Vagner, who in the 19th century laid the foundation for the materialist evolutionary approach in animal psychology. This approach was further developed by the Soviet scientists N. N. Ladygina-Kots, V. M. Borovskii, D. N. Kashkarov, N. lu. Voitonis, G. Z. Roginskii, and other Soviet animal psychologists, primarily studying the behavior of primates in order to elucidate the biological pre-requisites of anthropogenesis and the origin and development of the human mind. Manipulation, the use of tools as the biological basis for the genesis of work, and learning, skills, and intelligence are studied particularly in anthropoid apes; herd instinct, specifically social behavior and imitation as prerequisites of the origin of man’s social life and language, are studied in monkeys.

The modern materialist conception of animal psychology proceeds from the idea of the dialectical unity of outer behavior and psychic activity and is based on a strictly objective analysis of animal activity, taking into account the ecological and physiological characteristics of the species studied.


Vagner, V. A. Biologicheskie osnovaniia sravnitel’ noi psikhologii, vols. 1–2. St. Petersburg-Moscow, 1910–13.
Vagner, V. A. Vozniknovenie i razvitie psikhicheskikh sposobnostei, parts 1–9. Leningrad, 1924–29.
Severtsov, A. N. “Evoliutsiia i psikhika.” In Sobr. soch., vol. 3. Moscow-Leningrad, 1945.
Ladygina-Kots, N. N. Razvitie psikhiki v protsesse evoliutsii organizmov. Moscow, 1958.
Tinbergen, N. Povedenie zhivotnykh. Moscow, 1969. (Translated from English.)
Fabri, K. E. “V. A. Vagner i sovremennaia zoopsikhologiia,”Voprosy psikhologii, 1969, no. 6.


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