Encyclopedia of Animal Cognition and Behavior

Living Edition
| Editors: Jennifer Vonk, Todd Shackelford

Morgan’s Canon

  • Roger K. ThomasEmail author
Living reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-47829-6_495-1



“Perhaps the most quoted statement in the history of comparative psychology is Lloyd Morgan’s canon” (Dewsbury 1984, p. 187). “To this it can be added that perhaps the most misrepresented statement in the history of comparative psychology is Lloyd Morgan’s canon” (Thomas 1998, p. 158). Conwy Lloyd Morgan (1852–1936) did not refer to it as a “canon” but as a “principle.” However, it quickly became known as “Morgan’s canon,” and that is how it will be identified here, unless Morgan is being quoted. Morgan’s canon was intended to guide choice among alternative explanations of animal behavior. This entry emphasizes at least 12 decades of misrepresentation of Morgan’s canon as a guide and provides fundamental guidelines for constructing the best explanations in animal cognition and psychological science.

Morgan’s Canon

The most cited version of Morgan’s canon is in his Introduction to Comparative Psychology (Morgan 1894, p. 53):

In no case may we...

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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PsychologyUniversity of GeorgiaAthensUSA

Section editors and affiliations

  • Douglas Sellers
    • 1
  1. 1.Penn State Worthington ScrantonScrantonUSA