Describe and evaluate arguments for and against the use of non-human animals in psychological research.

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Introduction

Describe and evaluate arguments for and against the use of non-human animals in psychological research. Non-human animals have been used in psychological research for hundreds of years. With the use of these animals, however, comes the question: "How can on justify the use of non-human animals, who cannot give informed consent, in tests and trials that could cause them both physical and psychological harm?" It is difficult to defend the use of animals in psychological research. The two main sides to the argument take highly differing views. The animal rights movement takes up the position: "No matter the potential harm to mankind, it is ethically wrong to use animals in research." The other side of the argument is held in the utilitarian view that the cost of the research in suffering should be balanced against the benefit to mankind, and that animal research can be justified on that basis.

Middle

This was translated on to human children that six months was the limit for comfort deprivation. Although Harlow's Monkeys experiment produced a basically useful result, a case study, 44 Juvenile Thieves, was able to procure similar findings, but simply by looking at past human behaviour. Admittedly case studies are narrow, and the findings somewhat dependent on the researcher maintaining a standard, but they do not require the suffering of non-human animals. On the other side of the argument, the utilitarian argument is firmly fixed in a scientific base. The justification for the use of animals in psychological research is that there have been significant benefits to humans and animals alike. For example, Skinner's Rats experiments have had countless profits in the control and conditioning of maladaptive human behaviours. From the experiments it was found that when behaviour was rewarded, it was repeated, that punishments didn't work, and that negative reinforcement was most effective in removing undesirable behaviours.

Conclusion

Also, where animal suffering is high, quality of research is low or the certainty of benefit is low and the quality of research is moderate, animal research is precluded without having to take into account the other factors. It is because of the many issues involved in animal research that experimenters use the three Rs system to check that the use of animals is necessary. The Rs stand for Replace, Reduce and Refine. The experimenter must first check that the animal could not be replaced by another form of subject. If animals are necessary then the experimenter must reduce the number of animals used and refine the tests to ensure that the animals are as comfortable as possible. Due to the three Rs and Bateson's Cube, the utilitarian argument is the prevalent and generally accepted one. However, animal rights activists continue to stand up for their ethical and moral objections, and the debate continues. --Alexandra Payne--

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