Behavior is the response of an individual, group, or species to its environment. Anything a living being does that involves action and response to stimulation is considered behavior. Behavioral scientists study humans and animals, seeking descriptions, generalizations, and explanations of behavior. Psychology is the science of mind and behavior that pertains exclusively to human beings. Ethology is the scientific study of animal behavior.
The development of behavior in people and animals is also an important area of research. Many behaviors, both normal and abnormal, are common to humans and animals. We can use animals to study the relationship between psychological stress and the immune response to infection. It would be difficult to control such an experiment on humans, even if volunteer subjects could be found. Stress has been shown to reduce the effectiveness of the immune response in a number of animal species, including monkeys. There is, therefore, a compelling reason to believe that the same change occurs in people. There is also a less obvious reason for the study of animal behavior in research. The stress of inappropriate housing and handling may influence the results of experiments in which stress is not meant to be a factor.
Investigators study the behavior of animals just as they might study any other natural phenomenon. Wildlife biology has been popularized by television specials showing the behavior of animals being studied in their natural habitats. Laboratory studies provide information that complements field research. Behavioral research is also important because of the intense debate over the proper use of animals in research. While animal rights advocates raise ethical and moral issues, they also raise questions on animal behavior that require legitimate scientific inquiry, such as “Can we judge the state of the animal’s welfare from its behavior as well as its surroundings?” This leads to other questions such as “Are there significant differences in welfare requirements between species?” and “How is the behavior of domestically reared animals different from their wild counterparts?” All of these questions provide motivation for further research in animal behavior.