Comparative Psychology

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Related to Comparative Psychology: differential psychology

Comparative Psychology


a branch of psychology that studies both the common traits and the differences in the origin and development of human behavior and animal behavior.

The development of comparative psychology is associated with the works of J. B. Lamarck and particularly those of C. Darwin and, in Russia, of V. A. Vagner. Vagner understood the science in the widest sense, as a discipline bridging animal and human psychology. The ontogenetic or phylogenetic similarity between elements of animal and human behavior indicates common origins of their psychological evolution. The qualitative differences indicate the importance of sociohistorical factors, particularly work, social activity, and articulate speech, in the development of the human psyche and consciousness.

Comparative psychology studies forms of mental activity that are hereditary and innate (instinctive) and forms that are acquired, which are related to learning and intellectual activity. The study of primate behavior and the mode of life and man’s animal ancestors is of great importance in comparative psychology because it helps to establish the biological foundations of anthro-pogenesis. Research on the mode of life and material culture of prehistoric man (paleopsychology) has led to an understanding of his psyche as the initial form of the psyche of modern man.

The development of comparative psychology based on dialectical materialism has taken place through a struggle against idealist concepts, such as psychophysiological parallelism, and vulgar-materialist concepts, such as mechanicism and orthogenesis, which are expressed in attempts to biologize human behavior or anthropomorphize animal behavior. Comparative psychological data are of great significance in the resolution of many problems in psychology, philosophy, anthropology, medicine, and education (the genetic basis for the development of the child psyche).


Darwin, C. “Proiskhozhdenie cheloveka i polovoi otbor: Vyrazhenie emotsii u cheloveka i zhivotnykh.” Soch., vol. 5. Moscow-Leningrad, 1953.
Vagner, V. A. Biologicheskie osnovaniia sravnitel’noi psikhologii, vols. 1–2. St. Petersburg-Moscow, 1910–13.
Voitonis, N. Iu. Predistoriia intellekta. Moscow-Leningrad, 1949.
Ladygina-Kots, N. N. Predposylki chelovecheskogo myshleniia. Moscow, 1965.


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A consideration of some conceptual trends in comparative psychology.

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