The David S. Olton Behavioral Biology Program is an interdepartmental, interdivisional area major for those wishing to study the natural and social sciences in relation to human and animal behavior. The program begins with the fundamental concepts of both the natural sciences and the social sciences. Then the interface between these two areas is explored through specialized courses and electives, and through additional study emphasizing a particular subject. Courses provide a broadly based yet integrated education, focused in the field of behavioral biology.
Behavioral Biology and Neuroscience
Many students ask about the similarities and differences between the behavioral biology program and the major in neuroscience. The neuroscience major is similar to the behavioral biology major in that it is also an interdepartmental program. Students majoring in neuroscience can concentrate in one of three areas of specialization: cellular and molecular, systems, or cognitive neuroscience. The systems neuroscience concentration is the one that most closely resembles the behavioral biology major. Many of the courses required for systems neuroscience majors are also required of behavioral biology majors. Behavioral biology majors can explore many aspects of the biology of behavior, not only the mechanisms of behavior, but also evolutionary, ecological, and social aspects of behavior. Therefore, the behavioral biology major maintains an identity independent of the neuroscience major, despite some overlaps. Furthermore, the behavioral biology major has fairly liberal course requirements so that students can explore more choices in their liberal arts education.
By the completion of their course of study, behavioral biology majors are expected to:
- Be able to understand and apply principles of data analysis using statistical methods
- Obtain a basic understanding of animal behavior
- Obtain a basic understanding of neural systems that mediate behavior
- Obtain a basic understanding of human behavior in the context of both the biological and social sciences
- Develop basic competence in scientific communication, oral and written
- Explore and prepare for careers, including those in basic science and medical/veterinary fields.