The ethological approach as a new way of investigating behavioural health in the Arctic

Article English OPEN
Tafforin, Carole (2012)
  • Publisher: Co-Action Publishing
  • Journal: International Journal of Circumpolar Health (issn: 1797-237X, eissn: 1239-9736)
  • Related identifiers: doi: 10.3402/ijch.v70i2.17812
  • Subject: methods, human ethology, social group, isolated and confined environment (ICE), polar missions, human colonization

Objectives. From an interdisciplinary perspective, the goal of our research in human ethology is to investigate the adaptive dynamics of small groups in isolation and confinement with a particular emphasis on unexplored environments, from circumpolar missions on earth to interplanetary missions in space. Study design. The ethological observations were designed to monitor the polar teams on the Subantarctic islands, the Antarctic continent and the Arctic Ocean. The working hypothesis viewed the periodic changes in the groups’ organization as optimal behavioural strategies in extreme living and working conditions. Methods. The general methodological feature is a quantitative description of observable events based on the motor activity of individuals, interactions and communications among individuals and spatial mapping in collective areas. Results. We observed group organization, group disorganization and group reorganization over extended time periods in the polar stations. Cultural grouping and gender-based individualities were observed as well. Focusing on the Tara Expedition in the Arctic, we observed variations in spatial indicators, including inter-individual positions, and in temporal indicators, like collective times, as behavioural strategies for preventing the monotony of social life. Conclusion. The ethological approach, using non-invasive techniques of observation, description and quantification of spontaneous human behaviour, offers an innovative and complementary tool for sociocultural approaches, enhancing the knowledge of contemporary circumpolar micro-societies. With the changing of environmental context, the Arctic natives would undertake changes in their group organization for maintaining their behavioural health. Such social adaptation could be investigated with this new approach in the field.(Int J Circumpolar Health 2011; 70(2):109–112)Keywords: methods, human ethology, social group, isolated and confined environment (ICE), polar missions, human colonization
  • References (3)

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    2. Tafforin C. Life at the Franco-Italian Concordia station in Antarctica for a voyage to Mars: ethological study and anthropological perspectives.Antrocom 2009;5(1): 67-72.

    3. Levintova M, Zapol WI, Engmann N. Behavioural and mental health research in the Arctic: strategy setting meeting. Circumpolar Health Supplements 2010;5. 65 p.

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