How To Get Experience In The Field Of Animal Psychology

Category: Braid, Learning, Psychology
Last Updated: 14 Feb 2023
Pages: 6 Views: 58

Just about any field or concentration has a place for experts. Just as one person has superior skills in the game of chess (chess grandmaster) another may master computer gaming, musicianship or basketball. But what distinguishes an apprentice from a master? A novice from the teacher? Appreciation, commitment, practice, and time is how one develops expertise. This instructional memo is designed to teach trainees how to attain expertise in the field of animal psychology. Although the field is relatively new, the report will explain the process involved with developing a mastery level in this particular field. Upon reviewing this paper, the learner will walk away with information on how to achieve and access skills necessary to maintain steady employment in this field or to advance into mastery positions requiring greater responsibilities and level of commitment.

Many people still assume that the only animal related job is a veterinarian. Although the field of Animal Psychology is not as popular as say, Industrial Organization Psychology or Behavioral Psychology, the academic training one receives from psychology courses proves useful to studying animal behavior. There is an enormous workload remaining for individuals who wish to succeed in making a compelling difference in the lives of animals. With that in mind, there are accredited and well-respected learning institutions accessible to the student who wishes to expand their knowledge beyond the typical psychology degree. Many of academic institutions offer a learning-by-doing approach that develops proficiency and innovation, as it prompts students to take responsibility of the kind that leads to worthwhile results, at times even valued by a broader community (e.g. taking initiative).

Characteristics of expertise include better self-control, more care handling tasks, and a higher level of consciousness – features that help the learner avoid many mistakes during a task. A study on international gaming experts (as well as studies on professional sports athletes) showed that one crucial ability for expert or elite athletes was their ability to make superior anticipatory judgments and divide their focus to multiple stimuli as compared to less-skilled ones. Therefore, expertise appears to be an amalgam of knowledge, mindsets, skills, planning, and actions a person develops that allows them to strive for their highest potential. Additionally, certain brain regions are hard at work during cognitive tasks.

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How does one advance from a student to an educator? The answer is not that simple. Traditional viewpoints suggest inherent differences in ‘abilities and giftedness’ as possible theories. However, there is no hard evidence supporting a specific formula for how individuals become experts. Experts agree that expertise develops as a result of years of experience, but years of experience does not determine whether or not a person will gain expertise. Masters exceed mostly in their sphere, and there is little evidence that an individual greatly accomplished in one area can appropriate skills to another domain. Nevertheless, some researchers suggests a step-by step process to developing expertise including stages of novice, advanced beginner, competent, proficient, and expert.

During the novice stage students are still in the learning phase. They spend a great deal of time memorizing facts and will adhere to clearly defined systems as they try to comply with them. The advanced beginner stage views aspects of everyday experience. These everyday situation can be comprehended by the learner as the experience serves as a guide to teach them the “rules of thumb”. At this stage the learner is focused on short-term goals.

During the competent stage the student has increased independence, is more focused on developing a plan for long-term success and starts to create standards. At this stage the learner associates actions relating to long-term goals; follows routines and procedures, and conscientiously makes decisions. Characteristics of the proficient stage presents confidence and a sense of responsibility. The learner deciphers what is relevant versus irrelevant. Learners in this phase operate with a greater discernment during decision-making, is more automatic, and has a deeper comprehension of rules and theories. Finally, when one has arrived at the expert stage he or she no longer depends on principles or guidelines but displays self-management and care for others and their environment. Additionally, experts use analytical approaches during decision-making.

Ericsson et al., (2013) claims, “Innate individual ability plays little or no role in explaining expert performance”. He ignores much of the research supporting the role of individual cognitive differences in expert accomplishment and instead claims that deliberate practice (DP) along with experience are important components in the development of expertise. DP refers to conscious, studious, goal-oriented activities geared toward improving performance levels. It demands that the student fully concentrates, evaluates content, and executes routines with the goal of achieving a level of precision beyond their current performance level. He further claims that experts develop resulting from years of experience and through progressing through stages of proficiency.

There are a few fundamentals to attaining expertise: motivation, commitment, the quest for deeper learning, and more. Still, gaining proficiency in any field is a deliberate practice. Revlin (2013) states that, “The more you know about something, the easier it is to acquire new related information: The more you know, the more you can know”. Therefore, it is possible to exceed beyond the norm in what you want to pursue. For example, many students choose to achieve some of the greatest skill levels in animal psychology. After obtaining a PhD in animal behavior, management, and general/experimental psychology, one can choose vocations such as educators, zoo curators, and in some cases directors of animal programs such as Walt Disney World Resort. Completing this level demands a high level of competency as one would be responsible for all aspects of taking care of animals, in addition to facilitating science and education programs, and inspiring people to show concern for and care for animals.

Scientists recognize the importance of natural ability in expertise; Tiger Woods, Stephen Hawking, or Mozart’s innate skills cannot be denied. However, researchers report that during the problem-solving process there are cognitive functions working behind the scene engaging the brain in multiple ways. Scientists use functional magnetic resonance imaging or functional MRI (fMRI) to measure brain activity, while others use another type of brains scan known as positron emission tomography, or PET to look at how particular neuronal activity responds to different tasks. Recent data suggests that the brain makes changes throughout our lives. As we learn cells grow and form new networks with new cells. And it is not only nerves cells shifting and changing as we acquire information. Many other brain cells take part in these reactions.

The brain consists of billions of neurons that are actually nerve cells. These cells communicate with each other through incoming chemical messages. As we acquire new information, cells that receive and send information about the matter of concern act more proficiently. These brain alteration enable stronger, faster firing between neurons as the brain acquires new skills in an attempt to introduce new knowledge. fMRI and PET scan reveal brain regions that activate as we learn new skills. The prefrontal cortex for example, is the place where attention, concentration, and the decision-making process occurs. As the person learns myelination takes place. Myelination is a process through which myelin, a fatty substance, covers and insulates neuronal axons to increase the speed of travelling signals. These changes lead to more efficient functioning of the prefrontal cortex and allows it to communicate faster with other brain regions.

Additionally, when we learn a part of the brain called the hippocampus serves as a data drive storing information into our memory by way of its location, complex structure, and the way it connects with other regions of the brain. Research shows that cells in the hippocampus provide strong learning-related formations of neural activity that take part in the initial organization of new associative memories. Furthermore, scientists note correlations in animal’s behavioral learning curve for a particular activity and dramatic changes in neural activity across the hippocampal network. These findings suggest that the change in neuronal activity is correlated with learning.

A degree in psychology is a good place to start. Many students show great interest in studying the human animal. However, some exhibit a love and commitment for helping animals and a desire to connect with and relate to unusual or exotic animals. Beyond a bachelor’s degree in psychology locate a graduate school with a strong focus on animal research, there you can participate in research and case studies while furthering your degree. Besides a degree in human psychology, there are well-respected places for academic studies in animal behavior. Zoo Atlanta, Disney’s Animal Kingdom in central Florida, and the Zoological Society of San Diego are teaching facilities with well-respected research departments placing an emphasis on animal conservation, endangered species, animal management, besides the business aspect in this field.

To wrap things up we will reiterate a few key topics discussed earlier. This handout discussed the responsibilities and skills required on both a practical and professional level for becoming an animal psychologist. Not everyone chooses mastery in that field. However, whether you choose to master this field or become a resourceful apprentice you be qualified. Motivation, the desire to learn and a love of their chosen occupation is enough to start one off on the right foot to advancement in any career. Particularly, achieving the mastery level will depend upon how the learner integrates knowledge, their level of self -regulation, deliberate practice, and level of commitment. Thankfully, our brains are wired to accommodate and make changes during our learning process. Many students will begin on their journey to expertise but will soon realize that the road is long and there are risks involved. However, some will stay on the long winding road to achieving expertise and will eventually achieve it.

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How To Get Experience In The Field Of Animal Psychology. (2023, Feb 14). Retrieved from

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