Need help with evaluating animal research in psychology

    • Thread Starter

    Hi, just wondering if anyone can help me with the evaluation of animal research in biological rhythms in psychology,
    thanks a million!!

    When evaluating animal research in relation to any topic in psychology there are 2 main points to consider:

    1. Ethics- Many people would say that it is unethical to harm animals in order to advance our understanding of psychology. Some people would say we don't have the right to do this as it could cause them pain and suffering or even kill them. Others would argue that if it is for the benefit of science, rather than for example cosmetics, then it is acceptable to use animals but it is widely debated.

    2. Generalisability- It could be argued that, as animals have very different physiology to humans, we don't actually learn that much about human psychology from experimenting on animals because the results can't be generalised from the animal's body and brain, to a human. This is because humans as a species have much higher level functioning than all other animals and consequently there are many other factors that affect their behaviour.

    They're just the points that I would cover, but I did get an A* in psychology A level last year so I don't think you should be too far off the mark if you use the ideas above. Hope that helps

    For a positive evaluation point, they allow for experimental manipulation in areas you couldn't do in humans. For example, removing areas of the brain to see for effects on circadian rhythms. Experiments are considered the 'gold standard' of methodology in psychology.

    AnimalReductionismThe essence of animal reductionism is the assumption that we can understand human behaviour by studying the behaviour of other species regarded as less complex than the human one. This approach is especially associated with the behaviourists. For example, Pavlov carried out studies on dogs and Skinner on rats and pigeons, but they assumed that their findings were fully applicable to humans. Another behaviourist (Clark Hull) argued that all species learn in the same way, but humans typically learn faster and more efficiently than other species.
    There are various advantages of animal reductionism. First, it can be arguedthat simple forms of learning (e.g., classical conditioning, operantconditioning) can be studied more directly in other species than in the humanone. Our behaviour is influenced by language, by social factors, and by culturalfactors, and these may complicate the interpretation of findings. Second, somephenomena initially observed in other species have important implications forhumans. For example, Seligman (1975) discovered learned helplessness in dogs, and this led to an enhanced understanding of depression in humans (seeEysenck’s A2 Level Psychology Chapter 11, Psychopathology: Depression).
    What are the disadvantages of animal reductionism? First, the human species isso different from other species that this greatly limits what we learn bystudying them. For example, our large neocortex relative to other speciesequips us with cognitive abilities (e.g., language) that simply don’t exist inother species (see A2 Level Psychology Chapter 8, Intelligence andLearning). Second, the findings obtained from studies based on animalreductionism can be very misleading so far as the human species is concerned.Skinner’s research on rats revealed that they are motivated to obtain immediaterewards and avoid immediate punishments. However, such research tells usprecisely nothing about important aspects of human motivation such as the wayour behaviour is influenced by long-term goals (e.g., achieving a good grade inA-level Psychology).To summarise: Human behaviour can be understood by looking at less complex species.
    • Advantages include:
      • Simple forms of learning can be studied more directly in non-human species.
      • Observations in other species can have important implications for humans (e.g., learned helplessness).
    • Disadvantages include:
      • The human species is very different from other species.
      • Findings from studies on non-human animals can be misleading in terms of the human species.
    As mentioned in a post above, other issues involve harm to animals and the generalisability of the findings. Another ethical issue is that animals cannot give their full informed consent for an experiment.

    Hope this helps
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