What is ethology?

Ethology (from Greek: ἦθος, ethos, “character”; and -λογία, -logia, “the study of”) is the scientific study of animal behavior, and a sub-topic of zoology.

Why would I use ethology to study art behaviors?

Two Reasons:

1.  “It is worth emphasizing how long we were “feral” or “natural,” and how recently we have been domesticated into separate cultures.  As aninmal taxa go, hominids are quite recent, becoming distinct only about four million yeas ago.  But 39/40ths of that four-million-year period, during all of which time we were gradually “evolving,” we inhabited essentially the same environment and lived in essentially the same way, as nomadic, savannah-dwelling, hunter-gatherers in small groups of twenty-five or so” (Dissanayake, 1992, p. 4).

Basically, we evolved to live in an environment vastly different than the one we currently inhabit and “given the mismatch between the speed of technological development and human evolution, the same instincts and abilities that once helped us now often stand in our way” (Ariely, 2010, p. 8).  So, like our bodies evolved to give us a little time to consume extra calories before signaling a full belly in order to cushion for the times when food was scarce, our bodies may have evolved in other ways (specifically aesthetically oriented, see flow) that are now incompatible with our lifestyles (like with respect to the abundance of calorie rich foods at our disposal).

It is worth looking at how we spent our first 3,900,000 years in the pursuit of understanding the decline of subjective well-being in market economy consumer cultures.

2. “All known societies practice at least one of what we in the West call “the arts,” and for many groups engaging with the arts ranks among the society’s most important endeavors” (Dissanayake, 1992, p. xiii).

This is a lengthy discussion with lots of explanations about the prevalence and value of the arts in human culture, ranging from sex selection to the development of cohesive communities.  There are lots of bio-behavioral anthropologists writing about the communal value of the arts (sort of in a sociological sense).  I am interested in the value of arts behaviors psychologically (with respect to flow and gratification) and physiologically with respect to reduction of stress hormones and neurological development).


One Response to “Ethology”

  1. barbaracuerden Says:

    I love ‘makeonomics’ !
    I wish I’d thought of it!

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