Behaviors and antics of animals have evoked curiosity and amusement in people since antiquity. Pre-nineteenth-century literature and natural history are punctuated with stories, anecdotes, and nonscientific speculations about animal behavior.

The strict separation of animal and human behavior ended with Charles Darwin's theory of evolution, which was the starting point for present-day comparative psychology. Evolutionary development had two important implications: first, that elements of human mentality would occur in animals; and second, that elements of animal mentality would occur in humans. Darwin, well aware of these implications, addressed the first in The Descent of Man (1871) and the second in The Expression of Emotions in Man and Animals (1872).

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