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Appetite and the Nature-Nurture Divide: Eating Behavior in Psychology and Ethology

Appetite and the Nature-Nurture Divide: Eating Behavior in Psychology and Ethology

Chapter:
(p.217) Eleven Appetite and the Nature-Nurture Divide: Eating Behavior in Psychology and Ethology
Source:
Appetite and Its Discontents
Author(s):
Elizabeth A. Williams
Publisher:
University of Chicago Press
DOI:10.7208/chicago/9780226693187.003.0016

Chapter 11 explores thinking about appetite within psychology and ethology between 1900 and 1950, especially as these fields were influenced by the behaviorist credo that study must focus not on mind or internal states but on external behavior. Behaviorists often disavowed interest in the causes of behavior and thus in debate over the relative importance of “nature versus nurture.” But researchers such as Curt P. Richter who studied eating behavior in animals theorized inborn mechanisms including a “salt appetite” responsible for regulating ingestion and other bodily functions. The nature-nurture dispute colored much research in ethology, which consolidated and expanded after 1900. Overall a broad division emerged between Continental instinctivists and Anglo-American anti-instinctivists. Some researchers including the American zoologist Wallace Craig and the Gestalt psychologist David Katz sought to resolve rigid dichotomies between innate and acquired propensities and behavior, but the issue remained contentious. Overall, most research on ingestive behavior was laboratory-based and took rats as the model animal, distancing itself from ordinary circumstances of human appetite and eating.

Keywords:   behaviorism, ethology, Curt P. Richter, salt appetite, nature-nurture, instinctivism, anti-instinctivism, Wallace Craig, David Katz, laboratory rat

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