Standard Article


  1. Ryan P. Vetreno,
  2. Steven J. Anzolone,
  3. Lisa M. Savage

Published Online: 30 JAN 2010

DOI: 10.1002/9780470479216.corpsy0324

Corsini Encyclopedia of Psychology

Corsini Encyclopedia of Psychology

How to Cite

Vetreno, R. P., Anzolone, S. J. and Savage, L. M. 2010. Ethology. Corsini Encyclopedia of Psychology. 1–2.

Author Information

  1. State University of New York at Binghamton

Publication History

  1. Published Online: 30 JAN 2010


The study of animal behavior in their natural environment is termed ethology and arose as a consequence of the seminal early works of zoologists and field naturalists, such as Nikolaas Tinbergen and Konrad Lorenz. These researchers stressed the importance of examining the evolution (phylogeny) and development (ontology) of behavior in the context of the animals' unique ecological niche. One goal of ethology is to determine which behaviors are learned and can be modified via an organism's interaction with the environment and which are “built-in” or passed on through genes. A key finding is that very complex behavior patterns are a function of genetics and are instinctive to specific environmental “stimuli” or events.


  • animal behavior;
  • learning;
  • emotion;
  • aggression