Archive | December, 2011

Week 12 Blog- God

16 Dec

What happens when people ‘meet with God’ in a religious experience? The idea at the begining of the century was that  these religious experiences were governed by the brain  as is all human behaviour and some argued by a specific region in the brain known as ‘the God spot’. However, is there actually a certain part of the brain that is active and controls  a religious experience? This is the question that prompted Beauregard and Paquette’s study.

In the study they used Carmelite nuns and asked them relive in their mind the most powerful experience of God they had had since becoming a nun. Using an fMRI scanner the regions of their brain were monitired during the exercise. They found that several regions of the brain were active during the religious experience.  The findings, researcheres said, neither proved nor diproved the existence of God and all they showed was that there was a correlation between neural activation and religious experiences. And that’s exactly what what the title of the article implies. That there’s a link. It can be argued however that the design of the study is flawed, the nuns were asked to imagine the religious experience whilst being tested, it could be argued that the activation of the different brain regions may be different/ not be as apparent in a ‘real’  religious experience, however the experimentors argue that prior studies, where brain scans of actors imagining an emotion were compared with brain scans of people who were genuinley feeling those emotions found that the brain activation was the same in both cases. I think this supports the conclusion sthat were drawn from the study.

The media however reported the study in a different way. The headline in the telegraph was ‘Nuns prove God is not figment of the mind’ this in itself is something the study never really claimed to do,  they said the opposite.. If you actually continue to read the article you will see that in fact it quotes on eof the experimentors as saying this, thereby misleading people who only read the headline. Can the findings be used in a way that supports the existence of God, as the headline makes out? It seems to me that if a biological response happens that can almost relive a religious experience from God if anything it seems to prove that God doesnt exist. Now don’t get me wrong this isn’t me saying God doesn’t exist, just that personally I don’t think that the study and their findings can be used to support a claim as such the Telegraph was making. The nuns were being retrospective in the study and remebering how their religious experience felt, therefore surely the findings just show what happens in the brain when this is remembered and not that God exists (again not saying he doesnt)

In conclusion the findings of the study show that there is a link between brain activation and religious experience, it seems ot disprove that the acivation occurs in a specfic ‘god spot’ as the caee was thought as many different regions of the brain became active during remembrance. However there is not enough evidence to support the claim made in the Telegraph’s headline.



Use of animals in psychological research

2 Dec

The use of animals in psychological research is a controversial and very debateable subject. 7-8% of all psychological research involves animals, and though this doesn’t seem a lot in the grand scheme of things it is a large proportion of research if, like some believe it to be, the results of which aren’t actually useful. So my question is what exactly are the pros and cons of using animals in research?

The use of animals in research has truly led to some major advancement in the psychological field; animals have been used to research studies that have helped form the basis for many behavioural theories of psychology. Take for example theories of classical conditioning (Pavlov) and operant conditioning (Skinner) these form the basis of the behavioural approach. Pavlov used dogs to investigate natural reflexes and stimuli, the findings of which are now used during systematic desensitisation. This treatment is now used to help people overcome their phobias whereby the person is slowly exposed to their phobia at building extremity. Without the use of animals this therapy wouldn’t have been developed.

However are animals close enough to humans in order to make the research useful to e generalised to society? In psychological research 90% of the animals that are used are rodents and birds ie: rats, mice and pigeons. The good points about using animals like these is that they are readily available for use and so are cheap however they are very unlike humans biologically. Primates, animals that re meant to be more similar to humans are only used 5% of the time in research.  Surely it would be more useful for psychological research if animals have to be used that they are closer to humans biologically? This would be more useful to avoid situations like what happened with the thalidomide situation.

In conclusion animal testing is very handy to use in Psychology as it means that human advancement can happen without harming any people and this has been done multiple times in the past. However due to the biological differences in species can the results from animal studies ever give the same results that would be gathered from human trials?