Learn experiments or research, they must be handled

Learn about using animals in experiments according to ethical guidelines set forth by the American Psychological Association, including the ethical and unethical use of animals in past research experiments, and test your knowledge with a quiz.

How Are Animals Used in Research?

Why do you engage in some of the same behaviors over and over again? Probably because you are reinforced for those behaviors. After all, we all enjoy rewards and doing things that provide us with something we need.

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Animal research has provided significant insight into human behavior and development. Psychologists conduct experiments and research studies to learn more about behavior and help improve human life. Some experiments use people as subjects, while others use animals.

Animals are often used in psychological research when it would be inappropriate to use people due to the nature of the experiment or the length of time it takes to conduct the experiment. Various animals, including birds, mice, pigeons, monkeys, and primarily rats, are used in conducting psychological research. The American Psychological Association (APA) sets forth the following guidelines for the appropriate use of animals in research.

APA Ethical Guidelines for Animal Research and Experiments

Psychologists who use animals in experiments or research must:

  1. Comply with laws, regulations, and professional standards when using and caring for animals.
  2. Ensure that all individuals who are using animals have received instruction in ways to handle and care for animals.
  3. Minimize the discomfort, infection, illness, and pain of animal subjects.

  4. Only use painful or stressful procedures with animals when alternative methods are not available or when using these methods would make significant advances to science, education, or its applied value.
  5. Use anesthesia when surgery is necessary and minimize pain during and after surgery. If an animal’s life must be terminated, it is to be done with minimal pain and as quickly as possible.

We will now talk about two well-known examples of previous experiments using animals. One of the experiments (Pavlov’s Dog Experiment) involves the proper use of animals in research, while the other (Monkey Drug Trials) displays the improper use of animals in psychological research.

Pavlov’s Dogs

Ivan Pavlov was a Russian physiologist who studied learning in dogs and is famous for the theory of classical conditioning. Classical conditioning is the first study of the basic laws of learning using dogs. Pavlov used a series of experiments to explain how learning occurs in animals and humans. In Pavlov’s experiments, animal subjects were not harmed in any way, and his discovery of classical conditioning is one of the most important in behavioral modification and mental health treatment, which is still modeled today. Classical conditioning is often used to treat phobias, anxiety, and panic disorders.

Monkey Drug Trials

The monkey drug trials of 1969 were one case of unethical animal research. The purpose of the study was to understand the effects of drug use and addiction.

In this experiment, monkeys and rats were trained to inject themselves with drugs. Many animals were injured due to the effects of the drugs and suffered convulsions and harmed their own bodies. Many of the animals appeared to suffer from psychosis, including hallucinations, and many animals died. Clear ethical harm was caused to these animals as a result of their participation in the experiments.

Lesson Summary

The use of animals in experiments and research has made significant contributions to the field of psychology and our understanding of life and behavior.

The ethics code set forth by the American Psychological Association requires psychologists to be responsible when using animals in research and experiments. When animals are used in experiments or research, they must be handled in a way that meets professional standards, institutional requirements, and laws. Procedures involving pain or stress cannot be used unless no other procedures are available, and it is justified by the potential findings of the study. If animals must be subjected to discomfort, pain, or illness, it must be minimal (for example, anesthesia used during a surgical procedure). If an animal’s life must be terminated, it is to be done rapidly and as painlessly as possible.


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