Lehrman, Daniel S.

views updated


LEHRMAN, DANIEL S. (1919–1972), U.S. psychologist. Lehrman was born in New York City and graduated from City College in 1947, after his return from military service. He received his doctorate in comparative psychology from New York University in 1954 for his research on the breeding behavior of the ringdove. Appointed assistant professor at Rutgers University in 1950, he became full professor in 1958. He was instrumental in founding the Institute of Animal Behavior of Rutgers University in Newark, n.j., of which he was the first director from 1959. In 1970, he was elected to the National Academy of Sciences and in 1971 was made a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

Lehrman's interest in animal behavior, and especially in birds, started while he was still in high school. His mature work dealt with the interrelationship of experience and hormonal factors in the life of many species, particularly the ringdove, his favorite subject. He was one of the first psychologists to unravel some of the complex interactions of hormones and an animal's physical and social environment. By a series of imaginative experiments, he showed clearly how previous experience could modify patterns of behavior that had been thought to be fixed characteristics of a species. Lehrman's theoretical contribution dealt with the concept of instinct. His most influential paper, "A Critique of Konrad Lorenz's Theory of Instinctive Behavior" (1953), began a life-long dialogue between American comparative psychologists and European ethologists, which was fruitful in clarifying the issues that divided the two groups. In his chapter, "Semantic and Conceptual Issues in the Nature-Nurture Problem" (in: Development and Evolution of Behavior, L.R. Aronson, E. Tobach, D.S. Lehrman, and J.S. Rosenblatt, eds., 1970), he came to the conclusion that the study of adaptation and development, rather than of "innate" and "acquired" behavior, was the preferable course toward solving some of the fundamental issues of comparative psychology.

[Helmut E. Adler (2nd ed.)]