Using relevant examples explain why ethical issues are important in research with non-human animals in psychology (15)



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PY3 Section C Essay Plan

Using relevant examples, explain why ethical issues are important in research with non-human animals. (15 marks)

Using relevant examples explain why ethical issues are important in research with non-human animals in psychology (15)


Your aim is to answer the following questions:




  1. What do we mean by an ethical issue? The focus is the clash between the rights of humans and non-human animals.

  2. How can we justify performing research on non-human animals.

  3. What are the moral arguments against performing experiments on non-human animals?

d) What examples of relevant scientific research can you give?

Paragraph 1


Define what we mean by an ethical issue – how do the interests of human and non-human animals clash. Give examples from psychological research eg Harlow’s Monkeys, Skinner’s Rats, Seligman’s work on dogs and Learned Helplessness.
Paragraph 2
Moral Justifications for Non-human animal research:


  1. Moral obligation to help humans before other animals (Gray 1987) – balance human benefit v animal suffering.

  2. Animals are well-protected by law eg “Animals(Scientific Procedures)Act”(1986) and the BPS Guidelines of the same year.

  3. Animals are convenient to do research on, so we should try to use them (because Humans are WORTH MORE – which is a moral question).

  4. Animal research has given a lot to both practical and theoretical psychology – eg Learning Theory (Skinner’s rat and pigeons), Parental Deprivation (Harlow’s Monkeys)

Paragraph 3


Moral Arguments against using non-human animals in research:


  1. Animals suffer – which goes against their rights, often unjustifiably because the knowledge gained is relatively limited.

  2. Animals are qualitatively different (both physically and mentally)from humans, which makes it wrong for us to do research on them when it will only give limited insight into human behaviour.

  3. Singer(1991) argues that there is no justification in using animals for research and those who do are guilty of speciesism. He argues it is wrong to do research on any organism that can feel pain, because an animal’s pain is as important as human pain.

Paragraph 4


Give examples of non-human animal research eg:
Sheridan & King (1972) Electrocuting Puppies - Obedience

Lashley (1929) Removing parts of rats’ brains - Memory

Seligman (1967) Electrocuting dogs - Depression

Selye (1956) Harming rats - stress

Harlow (1959) Monkeys with wire “Mothers”

Gibson and Walk (1960) Raisng cats in the dark – depth perception

Jouvet (1967) Cats on Flowerpots – REM sleep

Fossey (1983) Living with Gorillas – Primate Hierarchies


And discuss whether the suffering can be justified – describe a cost-benefit analysis.


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