Using animals in psychological research

March 7, 2012 at 4:12 pm (Uncategorized)

We have been using animals in research for hundreds of years, and there are strict guidelines put forward by the APA. ‘‘. These state that research can be carried out using animals only when it meets the following:

The research has to have evidence of potential significance in order to justify using animals

Animals should be kept in appropriate housing

Discomfort to the animal should be minimised

Although these guidelines are in place to protect animals, there are still a major issues with the use of animals in research. One of these is that will looking at animal behaviour actually help us to understand more about ourselves? What i mean is that we dont act the same as animals. A lot of research is carried out on rats adn mice, now i don’t know about you but i dont spend my life crawling about on all fours. They behave differently to us so why can we justify experimenting on them? An animal reacts very differently to some drugs than we do so not only is there the potential to harm the animal, but it might not provide any benefits to people in the first place. Another argument is that when studying animal behaviour in lab conditions, they do not behave how they would naturally and so any data is likely to be incorrect anyway. Finally, animal testing is expensive. I mean yes, you do tend to have to pay participants to complete your research, however when using animals, you need several of them to test, you have to pay for housing and food etc too, and so this can be costly.

There are however, several benefits to testing on animal. Firstly, and probably the most important reason is that if testing drugs, it is important to make sure they are safe before testing them on humans, and the only way to do this is by testing on animals as they are the closest thing to us, for example we share 75% of our genomes with rats.

As you can see, there are more cons than pros when considering animal testing, however, they need to be used in order to ensure that the research process, whether it be drugs or behaviour analysis, is safe for human participants. When it comes to animal testing, everyone has an opinion. Some cases there is more to be gained than there is to loose in animal testing, and in others there is more to loose, therefore i think in this case it is one of the most important times to conduct cost/benefit analysis.



  1. roisin07m said,

    Good blog! You have pointed out alot of the cons but only 1 example of a pro. Animal testing isn’t all bad and alot of it isn’t as horrific as it is sometimes thought to be. Often it is the worst cases that are hyped about in the media. Of course there are a lot of instances of cruelity at times but without animal research a lot of people wouldn’t be alive today. Rabbits and dogs have been used to test kidney dialysis and kidney transplants. Over 5000 people develop kidney failure every year in the UK and these helpful treatments wouldn’t exist if it wasn’t for animal testing. Now thousands of people can be treated and many can survive the disease. Many animals have extremely similar respiratory and cariovascular systems to us making it easier to generalise results and save thousands of lives!

  2. tomwall39 said,

    Great blog this week.

    Although through the media you generally only hear about the negatives about animal testing, i still believe it is a neccesary requirement for the important and new psychological methods. Animals have shown time and time again that they are important in testing such as in the field of medicine such as rabbits in the use of kidney testing.

    I know others will argue that it is not humane to use animals in testing, but modern guidelines are very strict on this and have been put in place so that minimal harm is placed onto animals that come into contact with any treatment. And hell without animal treatments science would not be as developed as it would be today.


  3. dsm1lp said,

    Animal research, what a good topic.

    An article I found in the guardian really got me thinking about the need to use animals.

    This article discusses medical research and the amazing things which have been achieved using animals – such as the polio vaccine and Herceptin. It suggests that some medical research, even with current advance, still needs to use animals. However, it also talks about some of the other methods used at present to save the use of animals in experiments. A centre (world leading) to help find other ways has also been started by the government.

    However this article does suggest a downfall, however we do research, there will always be differences between humans and animals. The importance of using animals in medicine has been shown, awarded research has 70% of the time used animals. From this article, I can understand the importance of animal research.

  4. Bones said,

    Good blog. You have pointed out well how animal research may not be beneficial and can be hard to generalise to humans however in some cases it has been proven to be very useful. An example of a psychological research that has been helpful is Harry Harlow’s study on maternal deprivation. ( This study has helped hugely in developmental psychology area of psychology as it was found, with the help of using baby monkeys, the importance of emotional attachment with mother straight after birth. If a child was deprived of this then they would emotionally and developmentally damaged. Although this study did cause harm and distress to the baby monkeys it has also had a big impact on developmental psychology and being able to further it.
    Therefore animal testing should not easily be written off and with the ethical guidelines of today less harm is done to the animals.

  5. prpij said,

    Nice blog, but there are lots of benefits to animal testing and the impact it has had is quite substantial especially in the medical field . The first heart transplants were performed on dogs Memories of the Heart”. Doylestown, Pennsylvania: Daily Intelligencer. November 29, 1987. p. A-18. then later on humans. and penicillin was very first tested on mice

  6. stefftevs said,

    Found you blog very interesting. And thought you argued both sides very good. I agree with you because the over all positive effects of using animals in psychology research is obvious. It doesn’t only benefit the world of psychology but also benefits many other fields of research E.g. medicine.
    I believe that you should have maybe given a research that has given clear benefits to psychology. For instance like Pavlov’s (1927) research on classic conditioning. He used dogs as participants in an ethical way and his research is still being used to this day on learning and behavior.
    However using animals can be very unethical. Harlow (1960) used monkeys in his experiment to investigate on the detachment theory. Here monkeys were treated awful and as a result suffered from extreme cases of psychological trauma.
    Therefore I believe that you blog well balanced and the pros of using animals in psychology research should outweigh the cons every time.

  7. Comments for Wendy. | stefftevs said,

  8. statsscrutiny said,

    I think animal testing is a very controversial area and it needs to be remembered that whilst a lot of benefit has come from the use of this technique the ends do not always justify the means. However in most of the developed world there are stringent rules on animal testing. This means that suffereing is always kept to a minimal and the experiment will have been evaluated and deemed necessary by an ethics board. ( This source also shows that research on animals such as non-human primates is only done when no other animal or non-animal subject is suitable. There are many safegaurds in place to ensure that the testin that is performed causes the minimal sufferering.

  9. Comments fo Wendy 14/03 « statisticalscrutiny said,

  10. psucfb said,

    I agree that not all drugs that work on animals will work on humans, but this is similar to individual differences between people. Just because a drug works for one person but doesn’t for another, does’t mean it should be dismissed. Also, we are a lot similar to animals than people might first think. All mammals have the same organs and they work in the same way, but vitamins and hormones also work in the same way for both humans and animals. For example, the functions of Vitamin C were discovered due to research on guinea pigs, rabbits helped with cervical cancer vaccines, and mice are currently aiding the development of treatments for leukaemia and lymphoma.

    However, as great as all this research is, it should only be conducted following the guidelines you mentioned above and as a last resort if there are not other alternatives.

    You covered a pretty controversial topic but handled it sensitively towards others, which was great! I also liked how you covered both sides of the arguement too! 🙂

  11. Homework for my TA « dsm1lp said,

  12. zjww said,

    I think although there are many benifts to animal experimentation that it should be banned as there are alternates and like humans, animals are sentient beings with interests in their own lives and freedom. We think it is wrong when animals get killed by poachers and feel that they should be punished, so why is it any different for experimenters who kill thousands of animals every year who are free from any repercussions who do it to benefit mankind.

  13. laf1993 said,

    Will post it on the right bllog entry this time….

    See I don’t know if their are more cons to animal testing. I mean I am a big animal lover, and I wouldn’t want to see an animal suffer but the research they provide is highly benfiicial. I mean firstly animal behaviour is often quite similar to humans. Squirrels for example do display altruism and it leads us to question if human behaviour really is that complex.

    Another argument with animal testing is whether it is wrong if the animal never knows any different. I guess some would also argue that the owner (i.e. the researcher) gives consent then this is enough and if the animal ‘volunteers’ e.g. gets a reward then this also covers the concept of voluntary partipation.

    I don’t personally support this, you can’t really explain something to an animal even the smartest of chimps, but I do think animal research has and can be extreamly beneifical and often the ends outweight the means. There are ethical forms in place as well and hopefully most animals do not suffer to much to benefit us.

  14. psud43 said,

    Using animals has long been debated and there is not going to be an agreed opinion of this anywhere in the near future. Many of the problems people have with animal research are examples of misconduct. However, these studies were a) never approved by psychology/medicine etc. or b) published in these areas. They are done by amateurs, so why is the blame being put on these areas of animal research. The guidelines for testing on animals are so strict throughout APA to the Swiss Academy of Medical Sciences and Sciences. Animals are also specifically bred for these reasons therefore not interfering with nature or sorts. The point you raised about how alike they are and therefore validity/reliability is generally why testing is done on the animal nearest to us but also least expensive to use. Hence why for genetics, rats are used, as you said about the genome and for behaviour studies, apes are used.

  15. Comments for 14/03/12 « psud43 said,

    […] Share this:TwitterFacebookLike this:LikeBe the first to like this post. « Previous post […]

  16. Comments for TA | zjww said,

  17. psucb0 said,

    I am strongly against animal testing for cosmetic reasons. I think that testing on an animal for these reasons would be going against the ethical standard of the benefits outweighing the cost, I don’t see how it is beneficial to test a product on an animal for the reasons of making people more ‘beautiful’. On the other hand testing on animals for medical reasons, for example in the cases of genetic modification and stem cell research , is more beneficial as it could benefit thousands of people and is potentially life changing research. I do however think that we abuse our position as top of the food chain. I recently watched a programme called the worlds smartest animals which features a Bonobo which has lived in captivity for its whole life and its soul purpose was for scientific research. It had been taight to use a form of sign language similar to that used for children with autism and was capable of having a ‘conversation’ with a human. I felt it was wrong that a creature so similar to humans genetically had had its freedom stripped away and was forced to sit in a cage all day long pointing to diagrams on a board.

  18. Final comments | psucb0 said,

  19. psud43 said,

    We tend to hear about the horror stories of animal testing in the media. However in general these stories do not follow through within the majority of scientific experiments. It is not just the APA which have these guidelines but every organisation whether it be throughout psychology, chemistry, medicine and even the cosmetic industry. These include the number of animals which you are allowed to test, legitimate reasons to test etc etc. They are pretty strict! Obviously there is the odd case, generally highlighted in the media but overall it is quite tight. Your point regarding to why use animals when we are not the same? We use the animals most nearest to us genetically and behaviourally which obviously changes on that which is being tested. However when it comes to something there may sometimes be the choice between two animals, the one which is more sensitive than us would be used. In a way to protect us. I don’t wholeheartedly agree with animal testing however if we were to stop that then what choice does that leave us, testing humans. Now obviously I can’t say for certain but I think there would be many more activists up in arms about human testing than on animals.

  20. Comments for 18/4/12 « psud43 said,

  21. amb4 said,

    Oh hell no! I do not think that there are more pros than cons… Would you like to be confined to a tiny cage and have tests done to you??? I don’t think so. They are having to go through pain and suffering just to benefit us humans. We get the benefits of the testing while they are either permanently messed up or dead. How does that seem fair?

  22. rooda said,

    the debate is going really good but there is no much cons. can anyone give me any idea about animal testing should not be banned?

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