A subfield of experimental psychology which focuses on the study of animals for the purpose of comparing the behavior of different species.
Studies of animal behavior have taken two main directions in the twentieth century. The type of research most often practiced in the United States has been animal research, involving the study of animals in laboratories and emphasizing the effects of environment on behavior. European research, by comparison, has been more closely associated with the area of inquiry known as ethology, which concentrates on studying animals in their natural environment and emphasizes the evolution of behavioral patterns which are typical of a particular species. Prompting an increase in the study of animal behavior, ethology has laid the groundwork for an understanding of species-typical behavior and also led to progress in relating and contrasting behaviors among different species. Comparative psychology serves a number of functions. It provides information about the genetic relations among different species, furthers understanding of human behavior, tests the limitations of psychological theories, and aids in the conservation of the natural environment.