- Pioneered by Konrad Lorenz and Nikolaas Tinbergen, ethology applies evolutionary theory to early animal and childhood human behaviour, in order to examine its instinctive and adaptive nature. Its roots go back to Charles Darwin's Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection (1859). Lorenz is usually credited with its discovery in the early 1930s. He is best-known for his studies of ‘imprinting’ and the instinctive basis of animal and human behaviour. His work had more impact on psychologists (as in John Bowlby's research on attachment and loss) than on sociologists: the latter usually argue that studies of animal behaviour are of little relevance in understanding human society.Ethology became immensely popular during the 1960s in popular books such as Desmond Morris's The Naked Ape (1967). In this and his subsequent work, Morris sought to demonstrate the similarity, and hence the evolutionary significance, of certain aspects of human and animal behaviour. Critics have pointed to the reductionist assumptions behind much of the popular ethology of the 1950s and 1960s, which is regarded as one of the precursors of sociobiology.
Dictionary of sociology. 2013.