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Posts from the ‘What’s in a name?’ Category

Metaphors in Behavior

The study of animal behavior requires careful attention to subtle assumptions and sources of bias.  One particularly interesting example of this is how biases are built into our language.  Let’s take male and female birds sitting close together.

Back when the term “pair bond” was applied to this behavior, scientists though that most birds were monogamous partners that stayed together for multiple years.  So, this term conjures up a nice notion of ‘devoted couples spending time together being intimate’.  The problem is that this leads us to think we know the function of a behavior, when often we really don’t.  It leads to a bias in how we view a behavior.   Read more

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Process or Mechanism?

One often hears the terms “mechanism” and “process” used interchangeably.  But really, what do they mean, what’s the difference, and does it really matter?  Giving these terms strict definitions is key to nailing down the conceptual framework of your research. Read more

Life History?

Poor “Life History.”  Unfortunately, this is one of the most commonly misused terms in biology.   There is really no such thing as a “life history.”  That term is short-hand and probably ought to be avoided. Read more