Contents of the Lizard Pushups
Synopsis: In this module the user
plays the role of a behavioral researcher, investigating the "pushup"
behavior of lizards. At the heart of the module is an exercise in which
the user takes notes on encounters between (animated) lizards, and enters
the data into a data table. This is then followed by a quiz to test observational
ability and understanding of the concepts. Along the way, the concepts
of territoriality, types of questions in behavior research, observer bias,
coding behavior, and the "dear enemy" phenomenon, are explained
and illustrated. The module is approximately 20 pages long.
1a. Getting Started: Learning objectives and
2. Setup: Animated lizards doing pushups; introduces
the question: why do lizards do pushups?
3. Types of questions: Explains the difference
between proximate and ultimate causes, and lists some variants of these
two question types.
4. Gathering more data: Imagine you are watching
lizards in your backyard. What do you notice about their behavior? How
would you refine your question "why do lizards do pushups"?
5. Observer bias: Introduces the problem of
observer bias, with an illustration using an animated lizard.
6. Observer bias and describing behavior: taking
care in how you describe behavior is an important component of avoiding
7. Coding behavior: you observe the behavior
of an animated lizard, and you decide how you would desribe the behavior.
8. Coding behavior, con't: how an experienced
behaviorist might describe the behavior of the animated lizard.
9. Territoriality: You make a map of your backyard,
and record on it where you see the lizards.
10. Territoriality, con't: Your observations
reveal some patterns. Then, a chance encounter with a strange lizard raises
---- Why territory? (background reading)
---- Why pushups? (background reading)
11. Neighbors versus strangers: You decide
to stage encounters between lizards.
12. Preparations: setting up to stage the encounters
and take down data.
13. Data sheet: A data table you can use to
14. Watch the encounters and record data: Links
to six staged encounters, in the form of animations.
15. Evaluate the data: Once you have recorded
the data from all six encounters, you summarize the data, and take a short
quiz to check that your observations were correct.
16. The "Dear Enemy" phenomenon:
what the theory predicts, and what researchers have found.
---- Lizard Links
---- Lizard References