Comparative Psychology

Comparative psychology refers to the scientific study of the behavior and mental processes of non-human animals, especially as these relate to the phylogenetic history, adaptive significance, and development of behavior. Research in this area addresses many different issues, uses many different methods and explores the behavior of many different species from insects to primates.

Comparative psychology is sometimes assumed to emphasize cross-species comparisons, including those between humans and animals. However, some researchers feel that direct comparisons should not be the sole focus of comparative psychology and that intense focus on a single organism to understand its behavior is just as desirable; if not more so. Donald Dewsbury reviewed the works of several psychologists and their definitions and concluded that the object of comparative psychology is to establish principles of generality focusing on both proximate and ultimate causation.

Using a comparative approach to behavior allows one to evaluate the target behavior from four different, complementary perspectives, developed by Niko Tinbergen. First, one may ask how pervasive the behavior is across species (i.e. how common is the behavior between animal species?). Second, one may ask how the behavior contributes to the lifetime reproductive success of the individuals demonstrating the behavior (i.e. does the behavior result in animals producing more offspring than animals not displaying the behavior)? Theories addressing the ultimate causes of behavior are based on the answers to these two questions.

Third, what mechanisms are involved in the behavior (i.e. what physiological, behavioral, and environmental components are necessary and sufficient for the generation of the behavior)? Fourth, a researcher may ask about the development of the behavior within an individual (i.e. what maturational, learning, social experiences must an individual undergo in order to demonstrate a behavior)? Theories addressing the proximate causes of behavior are based on answers to these two questions. For more details see Tinbergen's four questions.

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Scholarships for Comparative Psychology Majors

Bullet name award deadline Link
 

Churchill Scholarship

Winston Churchill Foundation of the United States

Up to $60,000 November 02, 2020 See Details
 

Churchill Scholarship

Winston Churchill Foundation of the United States

award

Up to $60,000

deadline

November 02, 2020
See Details
 

Bess Heflin Fellowship

University of Texas at Austin, Office of Graduate Studies

$19,000 Varies See Details
 

Bess Heflin Fellowship

University of Texas at Austin, Office of Graduate Studies

award

$19,000

deadline

Varies
See Details
 

Alfred J. Reynolds and Bette Reynolds Goote Scholarship

Calvin College

$2,100 February 01, 2021 See Details
 

Alfred J. Reynolds and Bette Reynolds Goote Scholarship

Calvin College

award

$2,100

deadline

February 01, 2021
See Details
 

Sven Peterson Memorial Scholarship - UCSD

University of California, San Diego

$2,000 Varies See Details
 

Sven Peterson Memorial Scholarship - UCSD

University of California, San Diego

award

$2,000

deadline

Varies
See Details
 

Psychology Department Scholarship - Waynesburg College

Waynesburg University

$2,000 Varies See Details
 

Psychology Department Scholarship - Waynesburg College

Waynesburg University

award

$2,000

deadline

Varies
See Details
 

Maxie Collier Scholarship

Coppin State University

$2,000 Varies See Details
 

Maxie Collier Scholarship

Coppin State University

award

$2,000

deadline

Varies
See Details
 

Barbara Ann Hersko Scholarship

University of Wisconsin, Whitewater

$2,000 Varies See Details
 

Barbara Ann Hersko Scholarship

University of Wisconsin, Whitewater

award

$2,000

deadline

Varies
See Details
 

Overseas Press Club Foundation Scholarship

Overseas Press Club Foundation

$2,000 December 01, 2020 See Details
 

Overseas Press Club Foundation Scholarship

Overseas Press Club Foundation

award

$2,000

deadline

December 01, 2020
See Details
 

Asa Iokepa de Neeve Aloha Memorial Scholarship

University of Colorado Boulder

$1,500 March 13, 2021 See Details
 

Asa Iokepa de Neeve Aloha Memorial Scholarship

University of Colorado Boulder

award

$1,500

deadline

March 13, 2021
See Details
 

Daniel Sidney Wolf Memorial Scholarship

Northwest University

$1,250 Varies See Details
 

Daniel Sidney Wolf Memorial Scholarship

Northwest University

award

$1,250

deadline

Varies
See Details