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The Dancing Mouse

The Cart wright Prize of the Alumni Association of the College of
Physicians and Surgeons, Columbia University, was awarded, in 1907, for an
Essay which comprised the ?rst twelve chapters of this volume.
This book is the direct result of what, at the time of its occurrence,
seemed to be an unimportant incident in the course of my scienti?c work–
the presentation of a pair of dancing mice to the Harvard Psychological
Laboratory. My interest in the peculiarities of behavior which the
creatures exhibited, as I watched them casually from day to day, soon
became experiment -impelling, and almost before I realized it, I was in the
midst of an investigation of their senses and intelligence.
The longer I observed and experimented with them, the more numerous be-
the problems which the dancers presented to me for solution. From a study
of the senses of hearing and sight I was led to investigate, in turn, the
various forms of activity of which the mice are capable; the ways in whic h
they learn to react adaptively to new or novel situations; the facility
with whic h they acquire habits; the duration of habits; the roles of the
various senses in the ac quisition and performance of certain habitual
acts; the e?ciency of di?erent methods of training; and the inheritance
of racial and individually acquired forms of behavior.
In the course of my experiment al work I discovered, much to my surpris e,
that no accurate and detailed account of this curiously interest ing animal
existed in the English language, and that in no other language were all
the facts concerning it available in a single book. This fact, in
connection with my appreciation of the exceptional value of the dancer as
a pet and as material for the scienti?c study of animal behavior, has led
me to supplement the results of my own observation by presenting in this
little book a brief and not too highly technical description of the
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general characteristics and history of the danc er.
The purposes which I have had in mind as I planned and wrote the book are
three: ?rst, to present directly, clearly, and brie?y the results of my
investigation; second, to give as complete an account of the dancing mouse
as a thorough study of the literature on the animal and long-continued
observation on my own part should make possible; third, to provide a
supplementary text-book on mammalian behavior and on methods of studying
animal behavior for use in connection with courses in Comparative
Psychology, Comparative Physiology, and Animal Behavior.
It is my conviction that the scienti?c study of animal behavior and of
animal mind can be furthered more just at present by intensive special
investigations than by extensive general books. Methods of research in
this ?eld are few and surprisingly crude, for the ma jority of
investigators have been more deeply interested in getting results than in
perfecting methods. In writing this account of the dancing mouse I have
attempted to lay as much stress upon the development of my methods of work
as upon the results whic h the methods yielde d. In fact, I have used the
dancer as a means of exhibiting a variety of methods by which the behavior