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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Uncloaking the Magician: Contributions of Comparative Psychology to Understanding Animal Training

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The training of animals is an ancient anthropogenic process; however, it was not until the birth of comparative psychology, as a science, that the mysterious ways of the animal trainer were formally explained. In this review I will discuss the contributions of comparative psychology both past and present in animal training. The discoveries of comparative psychologists have greatly enhanced the animal training process and resulted in new methods for training animals; for example, training animals using social models. Despite, comparative psychology being a quantitative science we have still to empirically evaluate the animal training process. I therefore suggest how we might further our understanding of animal training and hence animal learning processes through the collection of data and meta-analyses.

Training in the circus world (as well as outside it) is surrounded with secrets, mystic and magic. Trainers seem almost frightened that their secrets will out...

Kiley-Worthington, 1990, p. 140.

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