Seance Sunday: The Snark was a Boojum

This article certainly starts off fun. The article, written by Frank A. Beach, begins with a reference to Lewis Carroll’s poem, “The Hunting of the Snark.”  In the poem, a crew goes hunting for a snark, which turns out to be a very dangerous boojum.  The article by Beach goes on to state that for anyone who has never read the Carroll poem, must now be informed that the poem contains a number of characters:


All this sets up the rest of the paper, where Beach indicates that thirty years prior, Comparative Psychologists went hunting for Animal Behavior. The albino rat was found and Comparative Psychologists disappeared. Beach then proposes that his paper traces the history of Comparative Psychology in the US, as well as explain the attitudes of psychologists towards comparative psychologists.

He explains what comparative psychology is:


He makes the rather valid point that only a small subset of extant species are studied in the lab; in particular, mammals. Therefore, comparative studies can only be deemed comparative in a very restricted sense. Research went from using mostly amphibious animals, to using mammals.

Now, today, both groups of animals are used; though rats and mice are big in neuroscience and psychology. As Beach states, there is excessive concentration on just a few animals.

Beach argues that we have mainly been narrow in our selection of animals to study.

Now, this makes sense. However, the animals chosen are chosen because their physiology is similar to humans, enough so that any results coming from animal experimentation can be applied to human studies. Also, rats are a favorite because they are easy to rear, are generally hardy unless some strain makes them immuno-susceptible, and they can generally exist well in a laboratory environment. I do understand what Beach is saying, however, and feel that he does indeed have a point. What do you think?

He further argued on the types of behaviors psychologists study, which tend to be focused on a small group of behaviors:


He further argues that he thinks that the reason psychologists rely on just a few behaviors to study is mostly due to tradition:


Now he does admit that there are advantages and disadvantages to using a small concentration of animals.

As Beach eloquently states:


However, he does add later on:


So what do you think; is Beach right?


Leave a Reply: A few words won't kill ya (plus, it's good for your brain)

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s