Chris Varnon

Assistant Professor of Psychology

Meet Dr. Varnon

Dr. Varnon is an experimental psychologist specializing in comparative psychology and behavior analysis. He also has a strong interest in zoology, including the biological mechanisms of behavior and behavioral ecology. Dr. Varnon received a BS from Jacksonville State University in Biology and Psychology. He then completed an MS in Behavior Analysis from the University of North Texas, followed by a PhD in Experimental Psychology from Oklahoma State University. At Converse, Dr. Varnon teaches General Psychology, Psychology of Learning, and Statistics and Experimental Design II.

Scholarly & Research Interests

Dr. Varnon’s research involves a diverse range of topics and species. He has worked with many species including horses, rats, pigeons, rattlesnakes, turtles, cockroaches and honey bees. Dr. Varnon is especially interested in basic forms of learning in non-traditional species such as ectotherms and invertebrates, behavioral imprinting, behavior of wild animals in captivity, and operant contingencies involved in social behavior and fear. Most recently, he has become interested in using invertebrates as behavioral and biological models of substance use. Dr. Varnon’s experiences with a diverse range of taxa have also led him to become involved with the construction, electronics, and programming of equipment used in behavioral research. To help others exploring similar research topics, Dr. Varnon makes many of these programs and equipment designs freely available.

Dr. Varnon also maintains his own website at where his research and current opportunities for students can be seen. His website also describes his software and equipment designs.

Research in Action

Below: A freshly molted Eublaberus posticus, ready for research. These insects are fast learners. Dr. Varnon studies how alcohol intoxication affects how they startle when lights are turned off and how they learn to associate odors with food.

 Eublaberus posticus Chris Varnon
Eublaberus posticus

Watch Dr. Varnon as a Bombus impatiens lifts a leg in a disturbance display. While often described as a waving behavior, these bees are actually warning that they will sting if threatened. They will, however, quickly learn to not be frightened of harmless stimuli they encounter frequently, like human observers.