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?


2 Responses to “Use of animals in psychological research”

  1. Rhian Lee December 5, 2011 at 3:02 pm #

    Humans are animals but we are nothing like birds or rats, there are so many biological differences between us, making us superior. Just because we can use other animals does not mean we should. We can never make generalisations about findings so we can never determine the truth so there is no need to use animals. If something needs testing or experimenting on why not use humans who have given their informed consent? At least this way the participant knows what to expect and we are not causing any distress or confusion to an animal who cannot give informed consent. Animals are helpless and we should not use our superiority over them, instead respect them as they are living creatures too. My opinion has recently changed as I used to believe it was fine, but after watching the way some people treat animals I found it disgusting. We wouldn’t lock a human in a cage or cause them stress so why should we expect it to be fine for other animals?

  2. psuea7 December 9, 2011 at 9:39 pm #

    Although you do make some good points in the benifits of animal research there are many issues with using animals, some of which are mentioned above. although animals are treated with much better care in experiments that in the past they do not have the same right in terms of experiments that humans have, some of course are not possible such as informed consent. but on the hole animals are still treated worse than humans in research. In there past there have been some horrific things done to animals in experiments. Even in Pavlov’s experimewnts with dogs, bells and stimulus response, which seem quite ethical on the surface were cruel to animals as they involved surgical inplants which collected the dogs saliva. When you look at Pavlov’s later research it quite quickly gets more and more horrific and cruel over time eventually to the point, ( and i know iv’e mentioned this a lot recently in blog comments) where Pavlov’s did experiments on children in the same manner as he did experiments on dogs. It apperes that, like the dogs, some of the children were operated on to collect saliva. Newly found footage of these experiments was shown easrlyer this year on a BBC show called ” The secret history of the Brain” if you type pavlov’s children into either google or youtube this footage will come up, i found it quite discusting and it is not pleasent to watch

    Rhian if you were discusted by hearing about how animals are treated sometimes in research and you haven’t already seen the footage i wouldn’t recomend you watching it as it feature both Dogs been cruley conditioned into associating an electric shock with the beat of a metadrome, as well as Pavlov’s children.

    I personally don’t understand why ethical guidelines for animals are less than ethical guidelines for humans.
    What Makes Us Better Than Them?

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