John B. Calhoun

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Date of Birth May 11, 1917
Place of Birth Elkton, Tennessee
Date of Death Sep 7, 1995 (78)
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John B. Calhoun

John Bumpass Calhoun was an American ethologist and behavioral researcher noted for his studies of population density and its effects on behavior. He claimed that the bleak effects of overpopulation on rodents were a grim model for the future of the human race. During his studies, Calhoun coined the term "behavioral sink" to describe aberrant behaviors in overcrowded population density situations and "beautiful ones" to describe passive individuals who withdrew from all social interaction. His work gained world recognition. He spoke at conferences around the world and his opinion was sought by groups as diverse as NASA and the District of Columbia's Panel on overcrowding in local jails. Calhoun's rat studies were used as a basis in the development of Edward T. Hall's 1966 proxemics theories.

Born: May 11, 1917, Elkton, Tennessee, U.S.
Occupation: Ethologist
Known for: Behavioral sink theory

About John B. Calhoun

American ethologist who was known for his studies of population density. He coined the term "behavioral sink", which describes abnormal behaviors in overcrowded population density situations.

Before Fame

He attended the University of Virginia before attaining his M.S. and Ph.D. from Northwestern University in 1942 and 1943.


He used mice to test his hypothesis about overpopulation and found that when all available space is taken and all social roles filled, competition and the stresses experienced by the individuals will result in a total breakdown in complex social behaviors, ultimately resulting in the demise of the population.

Family Life

He met his wife, Edith Gressley, at Northwestern.


He met with Pope John Paul II about the possible side effects of overpopulation.

Information related to John B. Calhoun

  • Proxemics - Proxemics is the study of human use of space and the effects that population density has on behaviour, communication, and social interaction. Proxemics is one among several subcategories in the study of nonverbal communication, including haptics, kinesics, vocalics, and chronemics.
  • Lek mating - A lek is an aggregation of male animals gathered to engage in competitive displays, lekking, to entice visiting females which are surveying prospective partners for copulation. Leks are commonly formed before or during the breeding season.
  • Ethologists
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Latest information about John B. Calhoun updated on October 28, 2020.

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