Ethical issues in research with non-human animals in psychology

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

Psychologists do research to learn more about behaviour and how knowledge of behaviour can be used to advance the welfare of people and animals. Although much research in psychology uses human subjects, research with animal subjects continues to be essential in answering some fundamental questions. About 7-8% of psychological research involves the use of animals. Although the range of species that have been used in various studies in psychology is broad, 90% of the animals used have been rodents and birds. Only 5% of the animals used are monkeys and other primates.

Studies typically use animals when time requirements, risk, the need to control behavioural history, or other conditions make it impossible to use humans or when there are other practical or ethical reasons not to use humans. Animals technically have fewer rights yet similar biological, hormonal, reproductive, and even comparable brain structures due to evolution of the human from animals and therefore ability to 'scale up' results. Behaviourists are most likely to see animals as having excellent relevance to humans and will be able to justify their use in experimentation.

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There are a significant number of psychological experiments that over time have used animals as a means of testing various hypotheses, for example psychologists Gardner and Gardner who attempted to teach Washoe, a chimpanzee, American Sigh Language (ASL). This study highlights many ethical issues in the use of non-human animals for psychological research. The relevance of this study is questionable in comparison not justifying the experiment. However other animal experiments in psychology have been invaluable in their contribution to society in demonstrating certain theories. For example Skinner famously used rats to highlight operant conditioning, a technique that is now ...

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