DEEP ETHOLOGY – Experimentation (7-31-2017)

 

DEEP ETHOLOGY

 

EXPERIMENTATION 

and

Ethologically-Informed Design

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Science does not explain anything… Science is less pretentious.  All that falls within its mission is to observe phenomena and to describe them and the relations between them.  (Lotka, 1925)

 


 

SEEK THE BEST STORY YOU CAN TELL WITH THE BEST EVIDENCE YOU HAVE

(does “best” mean “most useful” in meeting “most urgent needs”?)

 

BUT WHERE DOES EVIDENCE COME FROM?

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REVIEW:

 

DESCRIBE [ad. L. describ-ere to copy off, transcribe, write down, write off, sketch off in writing or painting, mark off, etc.] There are 4 senses of the term of which the second is most relevant to us:

2. To set forth in words, written or spoken, by reference to qualities, recognizable features, or characteristic marks; to give a detailed or graphic account of. (The ordinary current sense.)

EXPLAIN  [ad. L.N. Cf. OF. ex-, esplaner.]  There are 6 senses of the term of which numbers 3 and 5 are most relevant:

3. a. To unfold (a matter); to give details of, enter into details respecting. . . . b. To make plain or intelligible; to clear of obscurity or difficulty.

5. To make clear the cause, origin, or reason of; to account for.

from the Oxford English Dictionary

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Comparative Animal Behavior RESEARCH

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EXPERIMENTATION

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  • Predicated on OBSERVATION & DESCRIPTION [link]

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“For a scientific idea to be accepted, three conditions must obtain. The idea has to be cogently argued, supported by evidence and convincing in its cultural context. Later generations may judge that ideas that were ”ahead of their time” meet the first two criteria, but the third is knotty — and not because the cultures in question are backward or benighted. When evidence is incomplete (it almost always is), doubts can arise for good reason. That’s why so few scientific ideas are really new; they’re just waiting to satisfy all the conditions. So we have to be cautious when we try to acknowledge historical precursors of ideas that make sense to us today.”

from Kevin Padian’s NY Times Book Review of Alan Cutler’s THE SEASHELL ON THE MOUNTAINTOP April 27, 2003:21

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“Cogent arguing” is the establishment of coherence, “support by evidence” is correspondence, both dimensions of traditional philosophical ideas about  “truth.”  “Convincing in cultural context” is essential for acceptance and may be viewed as an aspect of coherence.  This dimension has been explored by Gunther Stent in his essay on prematurity and uniqueness in science and art.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

THE EXPERIMENT is a special kind of observation.

 

Artificial experimentation is an extension of ‘pure’ observation:  it enables us to obtain innumerable combinations of circumstances which are not to be found in nature and so add to nature’s experiments a multitude of experiments of our own” (J.S. Mill)

 

Many see Sir Francis Bacon as the historical mainspring behind the adoption of the experimentation as a way of knowing nature.  He avoided the old philosophies and wished to build up a new advancement based on data that was provided directly by nature.  He sought explicit answers to explicit questions, that is, experimental findings revealed by “nature annoyed,”

 

For even as in the business of life a man’s disposition and secret workings of his mind and affections are better discovered when he is in trouble than at other times; so likewise the secrets of nature reveal themselves more readily under the vexations of art …   (New Organon, Bk I, Aph. XCVIII)

 

Observations–data–are organized  in both the act of its acquisition and in many subsequent steps,  but the particular organization that permits us to use it to make accurate prediction is not always obvious.  When nature does not provide the events to observe, you may resort to experiments. 

 

NATURAL EXPERIMENT.  Sometimes, if you are alert, a “natural experiment” will present itself.  These occur spontaneously in nature, but just as in an “artificial experiment” (experiment in the common sense of the word), all variables that might influence an outcome are held constant (ceteris paribus) except those you are focusing on.   A good natural experiment is just as amenable to description and analysis as a carefully designed “artificial” experiment, and can be a powerful way of solving problems or answering questions about the causes and consequences of a phenomenon.  [For example, suppose geological changes (say, an earthquake) separated most of a population from a small segment that by chance had an uncommon variation of a trait; or perhaps one pregnant individual drifted across a  stretch of ocean that is usually a barrier to movements in that species, and finds itself (and its offspring) in a habitat that has very different selection pressures than the one it evolved in.   Another common example is in medical research where we cannot ethically impair an organ or its function (say, a specific part of the brain) to learn about its normal function.  BUT we might learn much when it is diseased or accidentally damaged]

  

ABSTRACTION.  ANY selection of some information (whilst other information is ignored or rejected) is a degree of abstraction:  the selective representation of parts of the reality it is given to you to understand.  Borges related the story of a map as big as a country [click butterflynotes:///852573D70000062B/11B7B90A9FA8E19585256C76000ED30A/F2D03252295E0D0585256E120009ADAB]

 Unsupported image type.

 

 

All genuine art is abstract (Suzanne Langer) — indeed all vision is abstract . . . nothing can be known completely.  What decides what we include or leave out?

 

The experiment is the abstract art of the scientist!  It is the insight  and skill of the researcher in selecting relevant variables to solve a problem that will determine his/her success.  Skill in this area depends upon sensitivity and precision of observation.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The novelist Emile Zola invented a formula to define the work of art:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Une oeuvre d’art est un coin de la creation vu a travers un temperament

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

(Zola used this all his life “changing it only to the extent of replacing the theological word creation by the scientific one nature.”)

(The artist then is like Francis Bacon’s bee, gathering material from nature but digesting and transforming it (New Organon, Part II, XCV).  Bacon’s bee combined experiment and theory, taking a middle course between ant-like experimenters who only collect and use, and spider-like reasoners, who make cobwebs out of their own substance.).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

HISTORICAL NOTE:

The Four Idols:  constraints on the quality of observation

 

The Novum Organum:  “True suggestions for the interpretation of nature” published by Francis Bacon in 1620 is a towering landmark in the development of scientific thought and strikes chords that are completely concordant with our theses:  Bacon deplores the habit of isolating facts and studying them out of context.  He humanely and eloquently forewarns us against the impediments to true understanding, the pictures taken for realities, the thoughts mistaken for things, the “idols” which beset the human mind: 

 

(1) “The idols of the tribe are inherent in human nature, and the very tribe or race of man.  For man’s sense is falsely asserted to be the standard of things.” this can be termed today, “the prejudice of culture;”

 

(2) The idols of the den are those of each individual.  For everybody has his own individual den or cavern (in which the light of nature is corrupted) either from his own peculiar and singular disposition, or from his education and intercourse with others…” these are the “prejudices of our own experience;”

 

(3) idols of the market which emerge from the commerce and association of men that converse by means of language.  From language “arises a bad and unapt formation of words–a wonderful obstruction to the mind…words still manifestly force the understanding.” that is, the distortions imposed by language;

 

(4) Idols of the theatre arise from dogmas of philosophy– systems that “are but so many stage-plays representing worlds of their own creation.” the prejudice of any academic point of view. 

 

Unfortunately, Bacon insisted that induction was the only valid source of scientific laws and he had little sense of the value of quantification.  The vision of science as we now know it was beginning to dawn in France and Italy, eased by Bacon’s stamp of philosophic approval on what might otherwise have been seen as tinkering.

 

 

 

THE CONDUCT OF EXPERIMENTS

Design: distinguish

a. independent variables (the one varied) and

b. dependent variables (the consequence or outcome of experience of the independent variable)

 

The treatment effect is the subject’s response to the experimental  manipulation of conditions

     Confounding factors

     Controls

     Experimenter bias

Partially manageable by means of blind (treatment groups not identified by observer until after all data is taken or the analysis complete).

(Double blind is when subject (or data taker) and observer (or analyzer) does not know treatment groups until analysis is complete)

Replication:

a. Literal replication

b. Constructive replication

 

Longitudinal (repeated measures over time) study Vs “cross sectional” study

 

 

Possible exercises:

1. “Take this fish and look at it”

2. Observe a film or video of behavioral interactions:

a. Observe as a group but take individual notes

b. What are the units of behavior? (functional? objective?)

c. Which are states or events?  Which are best characterized by frequency, latency, or duration?

d. Compare your units to those in an established ethogram . . . Any new ones?

         

3. Question:

Hypothesis generating: which could be dependent and independent variables? 

>>(One variable’s consequence could be another variable’s cause;     

>>One student’s dependent variable could be another’s independent variable.)

 

ANALYSIS

One learns to look behind the façade, to grasp the root of things. One learns to recognize the undercurrents, the antecedents of the visible. One learns to dig down, to uncover, to find the cause, to analyze. — Paul Klee (Swiss painter, 1879-1940)

Every person’s eyesight anticipates in a modest way the capacity of the artist to produce patterns that validly interpret experience by means of organized form. Eyesight is insight. — Rudolph Arnheim (in Art and Visual Perception, 1954)

When we analyze we play the role of a detective: we pick up clues, research, test hypotheses, identify component parts, simplify, organize, abstract. Abstraction is a process of identifying and expressing specific relationships and patterns of organization.

“It is possible to distinguish two kinds of analyses: contextual and formal. Although we will concentrate on formal analysis, other context-driven elements will also come into play. Formal Analysis focuses on properties intrinsic to an artifact such as its shape, size, geometry, color, or texture. It evaluates works of art primarily in terms of qualities of form and formal organization and disregards other important aspects such as subject matter and content, history and cultural context. Phenomenal Transparency is a type of formal analysis developed by Collin Rowe (an architectural historian) and Robert Slutzky (a painter) in the 1950’s; it perhaps most radically isolates objects from their cultural context and considers them as pure form.”

 

costs of ignoring ethological perspective

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Ethologically-informed design (EID) avoids the pitfalls inherent in research when the animal cannot be observed in its natural habitat, the environment in which it evolved (Greenberg 1994) see endnote, below

 

(1) ADAPTIVE HABITS.  

 

      many ingenious experiments have been undercut by failure to appreciate that rats in strange habitats are positively thigmotactic.  (Adams in Klopfer 1962).

      One scientist bred European sparrows (bearded titmice) but found that the parents threw the cared-for young out of the nest.  He was a good ethologist and went back to his basics (back to nature) and discovered that in the lab, hatchlings were better fed than in nature and did not gape for food very much. (IN NATURE, hatchlings that do not gape are either sick or dead- and consequently thrown out of the nest!! (E-E 1970:12)

      Several comparative animal behaviorists tried to compare the learning ability of mammals and reptiles- they discovered that reptiles were very, very dumb– they studied them in a lab and in the textbook generalized belief that as cold-blooded vertebrates they were happy at whatever the ambient temperature was, tried to get them to learn mazes- or even to approach a reward they can see. 

The main reason that they were so disappointed was that in nature, lizards thermoregulate by moving in and out of the sun, and cool lizards cannot move quickly- and consequently don’t make any movements that may make them conspicuous to a predator that they can’t escape from.

 

If animals cannot be studied in the natural habitat, the most reliable research design we can employ to obtain insight about the causes and consequences of a behavioral pattern must accommodate the natural environment — the context in which the behavior (and its relationship to other behavioral patterns) evolved.  Such a research design is ETHOLOGICALLY INFORMED.  

 

(2) DEVELOPMENTAL phenomena

 

      attention-accelerated development. give an experimental drug to one group of rat pups and a placebo to another group; ear-punch one group and observe behavior:  Ear-punched groups mature faster (drug effect?? NOT NECESSARILY)- wounded pups get more attention from their mother than the un-punched- THIS causes them to mature faster (Barnett and Burn 1967).

 

Important cognitive deficits associated with criminality have been attributed to fetal or birth trauma or deficiency that deprived the brain of blood during  a critical developmental period (Adriene Raine’s work, etc)

 

OBSERVER EFFECTS

      Handling modifies reproductive organ weight and fat stores degree of the effect depends upon the time of handling relative to the photo period, and upon its regularity  (Meier (et al 1973) (La. State) in many vertebrates).

      In medical research:  HANDLING PREDISPOSES CERTAIN MICE TO TUMORS (Riley 1975).

      Transient mild stress in pregnant mice may make her pups more susceptible to audiogenic seizures when they grow up (Beck and Gavin, 1976);  Some rodents will have fatal seizures when exposed to a particular sound if, as pups, they were exposed to that sound (Henry 1973).

     

(3) ENVIRONMENTAL CONTEXT.

 

      the response of a sparrow to a recording of sparrow song can take various forms depending on context: whether the female has eggs, nestlings, or fledglings in the nest.  (Petrinovich 1976).

       Social context.  the response of a gull chick to a particular call that adults make can take opposite forms (approach or withdrawal) depending on whether it is the mother or an adjacent mother that makes the sound.

       Zoo habitats: The normal habitat problem is most dramatic in ZOOS

“Lack of opportunity to hunt, explore, and so on, may lead to distortions of behavior–especially in mammals that are normally quite active.”  (Eibl-E 1970:11)

      In zoos, behavior STEREOTYPIES are common- (pacing tigers, somersaulting monkeys)

      Hediger describes an interesting one: An armadillo in the Amsterdam zoo had a pacing stereotypy until he was given 20cm of soil to burrow into at night; When the soil was removed, the stereotypy resumed.

      ABNORMAL OR OVERSIMPLIFIED HABITATS TURN ANIMALS INTO “EXPERIMENTAL MORONS.” Therefore, it is the responsibility of the ethologist to familiarize himself with a. normal habitat;  b. normal behavior; c. normal choice situations!

 

OBSERVER EFFECTS

prairie dog predation:  John Hoogland of the Univ MD Center for Environmental Research in Cambridge observed Prairie dogs for decades.  Predation on this population suddenly surged in 2005 when, Hoogland believes, the natural predators that were frightened off by the presence of the observers became sufficiently accustomed to their presence to act “normal.”  “‘What really happens when we’re not there?’ he asks”  –– reported in New Scientist 23 Sept 2006:17.

 

Bird banding: Nancy Burley’s work

 

(4) EVOLUTIONARY PHENOMENA

 

(5) DEVELOPMENTAL phenomena

 

      attention-accelerated development. give an experimental drug to one group of rat pups and a placebo to another group; ear-punch one group and observe behavior:  Ear-punched groups mature faster (drug effect?? NOT NECESSARILY)- wounded pups get more attention from their mother than the un-punched- THIS causes them to mature faster (Barnett and Burn 1967).

 

Important cognitive deficits associated with criminality have been attributed to fetal or birth trauma or deficiency that deprived the brain of blood during  a critical developmental period (Adriene Raine’s work, etc)

 

OBSERVER EFFECTS

      Handling modifies reproductive organ weight and fat stores degree of the effect depends upon the time of handling relative to the photo period, and upon its regularity  (Meier (et al 1973) (La. State) in many vertebrates).

      In medical research:  HANDLING PREDISPOSES CERTAIN MICE TO TUMORS (Riley 1975).

      Transient mild stress in pregnant mice may make her pups more susceptible to audiogenic seizures when they grow up (Beck and Gavin, 1976);  Some rodents will have fatal seizures when exposed to a particular sound if, as pups, they were exposed to that sound (Henry 1973).

      Bird banding: Nancy Burley’s work

 

4. PHYSIOLOGICAL phenomena

 

In the physiology and throughput (input–integration–output) of information in organisms that ultimately result in a manifest behavioral pattern, there are multiple areas in which even slight dysfunctions of which we may not be aware could be responsible for important changes in behavior.

In humans — many young students were labeled and learning disabled because of failures of perception (they needed glasses or a hearing aid) or attention (due to congenital or acquired chemical imbalance in brain (e.g., stress). 

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ENDNOTE: ETHOLOGICALLY INFORMED DESIGN

“There is a necessary relationship between research design, the welfare of research animals, and the validity of research data.  This paper explores several dimensions of this relationship along with comments on the importance of ethologically informed design. . . . 

Design both guides and is guided by the questions or problems an investigator wishes to address.  To be ethologically informed, a design implicitly acknowledges four key processes or factors, each reflecting a different level of organization, but all profoundly interrelated in the causation of behavior: ecological, developmental, physiological, and evolutionary.  These processes were identified in the earliest conceptual beginnings of ethology (Tinbergen, 1951) and continue to guide ethological thinking despite frequent fine-tuning of their respective domains or emphases (see Dewsbury, 1992). 

Questions about their role in behavior are characteristically answered by different modes of analysis, but when question, process, and mode of analysis are not carefully matched,  much sterile controversy may be generated (Sherman, 1988).  While these factors are related to each other, if only by being brought to bear on a common problem in understanding behavior,  they are rarely considered conjointly because their research methods and historical traditions have served to isolate them. . . .

Research endeavors designed to accommodate the manner in which these variables affect the integration of internal and external stimuli in the causation of behavior (Lehrman, 1965) can be said to be ‘ethologically informed.'”

from the introduction, Greenberg 1994

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