chapter  2
48 Pages

Perspectives on Animal Behavior Comparisons

A book devoted to the comparative method in psychology is liable to suggest that we are dealing with something like the Stanislavsky method in acting or the soft-ground method in etching: one among a variety of alternative techniques or ways of going about the business in question. It is true that there are psychologists who are called comparative to distinguish them from their colleagues who practice psychology called cognitive, clinical, social, and so forth. Yet there is a sense in which comparison is common to all kinds of psychology-indeed to all kinds of cognition. In the use of language, for instance, we depend on the fact that names have been given to objects, qualities, and relations, which fix certain similarities and differences in the flow of experience as boundaries containing it, dividing it, directing it. Whenever we describe, we class things or properties or events together or apart on the basis of the similarities and differences marked by the words we choose. Consequently, to the extent that science begins with description, it begins with comparison.