When you study the causal basis of a behavior, you are looking at the stimuli and mechanisms that precede the behavior. For early ethologists, like Tinbergen, underlying mechanisms were "black boxes"; they could only speculate on the factors which drove the behavior. A good example of the ethologists' response to curiousity about mechanisms was the development of drive theory, which attempted to explain how animals shifted from inactivity to activity, how they budgeted their time for different activities, and why, sometimes, they appeared indecisive.

In contemporary science, causation lies in the realms of genetics, endocrinology, physiology, and neurobiology. We know far more about how behavior, on an internal level, is initiated, generated, and patterned.

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copyright ©2003 Michael D. Breed, all rights reserved.