What's in a Name?

Before you begin: Write down your opinion to this question:

Do you think scientists should name the animals they study?


Make a list of qualities that come to mind when you see or hear each of these labels:

  1. What images do these "names" paint in your minds?
  2. Did your personal experiences and memories affect the images these labels brought to mind?
  3. How much do the images you see really tell you about an individual?
  4. Think Again: How did this exercise help you look differently at the question: Do you think scientists should name the animals they study?

Consider This: We often make assumptions about others' feelings, personalities, and intentions based on how WE see the world; that is, we make subjective interpretations. Objective interpretations are based on numbers and facts from what has been carefully observed and measured. Names and labels can reinforce subjective interpretations. Names and labels also create pictures in our minds that influence our thoughts and feelings about other individuals, whether human or nonhuman.

Why Scientists Avoid Giving Names to Animals They Study
Scientists must keep an open mind. They must make precise observations and carefully gather data. In order to interpret, explain, and draw conclusions about what they see, scientists must be objective. They must not let subjective feelings or opinions influence them. This could be difficult if they gave names to animals they study. They may be more likely to interpret behaviors through a subjective "human" lens influenced by their own feelings and memories and ideas.


Digging Deeper