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Open Access Publications from the University of California


The International Journal of Comparative Psychology is sponsored by the International Society for Comparative Psychology. It is a peer-reviewed open-access digital journal that publishes studies on the evolution and development of behavior in all animal species. It accepts research articles and reviews, letters and audiovisual submissions.

Volume 33, 2020

Research Article

The View of Russian Students on Whether Psychology is a Science

The Psychology as Science Scale (Friedrich, 1996) was administered to 525 psychology students from nine Russian universities to assess their beliefs about the nature of the discipline. About half of students (49.6%) generally agreed that psychology may be called a scientific discipline. Specifically, 71. 5% of the students agreed that psychology is a natural science, similar to biology, chemistry, and physics, 39. 9% of students agreed that psychological research is important and training in psychological methodology is necessary, and 43.1% of students agreed that human behavior is highly predictable. Students who took three methodology courses shared significantly stronger beliefs in the need for psychological research and the importance of training in methodology compared to students who did not take any methodology courses. Furthermore, students with a specialist degree had significantly stronger beliefs that psychology is a science compared to students who have just finished school. In terms of the effect of students’ career aspirations, students who wanted to be academic psychologists and clinicians had significantly stronger beliefs that psychology is a science compared to students who did not have clarity about their future careers. Regardless of the study limitations, these findings have potential implications for Russian psychology instructors.

Personality and Affiliation in a Cooperative Task for Bottlenose Dolphin (Tursiops truncatus) Dyads

Social species can depend on each other for survival, helping in rearing of young, predator defense, and foraging. Personality dynamics between individuals may influence cooperative behaviors. Bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus) live in social communities and cooperate with other conspecifics to achieve goals both in the wild and in human care. We investigated the role that personality plays in the willingness of dolphins to work together. We tested five bottlenose dolphin pairs at the Roatan Institute for Marine Sciences, Honduras, with an apparatus previously used to experimentally test dolphin cooperation. Personality profiles of each dolphin were created using surveys completed by the caretakers, in particular noting two different categories of interactions: dolphin to dolphin and dolphin to world. We hypothesized that dyadic success in the cooperative task would differ based on specific personality traits of individuals. We also hypothesized that the most successful dyads would show similar types of conspecific sociality and different means of interacting with objects. Although none of the dolphin pairs cooperated to open the apparatus, individual personalities were analyzed in relation to the dolphins’ individual and mutual interactions with the apparatus as well as the pairs’ social behaviors. Playfulness, curiosity, and affiliation as well as agreeableness, and extraversion were positively related to affiliation with the apparatus and each other. These findings suggest that certain aspects of personality are indicative of affiliation or interaction by an individual dolphin. These results could guide future animal research on the relationship between personality, social interactions, and problem-solving.

SI: ISCP bienniel meeting (2018)

Comparisons of Animal “Smarts” Using the First Four Stages of the Model of Hierarchical Complexity

The Model of Hierarchical Complexity is a behavioral model of development and evolution of the complexity of behavior. It is based on task analysis. Tasks are ordered in terms of their hierarchical complexity, which is an ordinal scale that measures difficulty. The hierarchical difficulty of tasks is categorized as the order of hierarchical complexity. Successful performance on a task is called the behavioral stage. This model can be applied to non-human animals, and humans. Using data from some of the simplest animals and also somewhat more complex ones, this analysis describes the four lowest behavioral stages and illustrate them using the behaviors of a range of simple organisms. For example, Stage 1 tasks, and performance on them, are addressed with automatic unconditioned responses. Behavior at this Stage includes sensing, tropisms, habituation and, other automatic behaviors. Single cell organisms operate at this Stage. Stage 2 tasks include these earlier behaviors, but also include respondent conditioning but not operant conditioning. Animals such as some simple invertebrates have shown respondent conditioning, but not operant conditioning. Stage 3 tasks coordinate three instances of these earlier tasks to make possible operant conditioning. These stage 3 performances are similar to those of some invertebrates and also insects. Stage 4 tasks organisms coordinate 2 or more circular sensory-motor task actions into a superordinate “concept”. This explanation of the early stages of the Model of Hierarchical Complexity may help future research in animal behavior, and comparative psychology.


Special Issue: Canine Research

Discrimination of person odor by owned domestic dogs

In the field of dog cognition research, many studies assume that their subjects have multimodal recognition of their owner: Experiments using the face or voice of the person have proliferated. An outstanding question is whether owned domestic dogs represent the people with whom they live via smell. Olfaction is a principle sensory modality for dogs, and there is evidence that it is integral to recognition of conspecifics. In the current study, we investigated whether owned dogs spontaneously (without training) distinguished their owner's odor from a stranger's odor. Using natural body odor captured on a t-shirt, we found that dogs habituated to a familiar odor and dishabituated to an unfamiliar odor. This finding begins to answer the question of how dogs recognize and represent humans, including their owners.