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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Bottoms-up! Rejecting Top-down Human-centered Approaches in Comparative Psychology


Although comparative psychologists have made considerable strides in the past several decades, expanding the breadth of species and questions examined, the field still suffers from an overemphasis on top-down approaches that begin and end with a focus on humans. This top-down perspective leads to biases and oversights that hamper the further development of the field. A bottom-up approach that considers species-specific abilities and behaviors in the context of theoretically relevant comparisons will be most useful in advancing knowledge of species-specific and shared abilities. This will allow a better determination of the extent to which continuities and discontinuities exist as a function of different ecological forces. In addition, a bottom-up approach will facilitate a shift in focus from using animals to better understand humans, to understanding animals themselves. This new approach will allow for an appreciation of how humans can benefit other species.

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