There are many blogs out there with regards to ethics and I’m not quite sure where I stand, is it right to decieve participants? 

Well some people would say yes but only if the ends justify the means and some people will put their foot down and say no, it is never right to decieve anyone, and as I don’t know where my thoughts lie I’ve decided to write a slightly different blog today, i would like to highlight the ethics with regards to non-human animals.

A lot of research has been carried out on animals besides humans for over a hundred years and animals will more than likely carry on being studied in the future, and this can be for a few different reasons.

1) We may research animals simply because we are interested in the animals themselves

2) We may research on animals to try and understand our own human behaviours as many charecteristics can be generalised across species.

3) Or we may research on animals because we cannot conduct this research on humans.

One example of animals being used for research was in the 1950’s-70’s when dogs were used to understand the affects of smoking, these dogs were sometimes forced to wear a mask which forced them to smoke up to thirty cigarettes a day and in one case Auerbach et al inserted smoking machines into the slit throats of live dogs, as awful as these studies were the effects of smoking were made quickly made apparent.

In my opinion this is terrible research that should

As there is so much research being used on animals I was wondering what sort of guidelines researchers have to follow and it seems that there are also APA guidelines for research of non-human animals. These guidelines stress that Psychologists must try not to harm the animals if possible and only use animals if they have to.

This, however may be the problem, to what extent can a researcher really understand how much discomfort an animal is going through during a project, animals can’t tell us if they are hurt or uncomfortable, so is it right to study animals if we can’t truly understand what we are putting these animals through?


I’m interested in the comments of this blog, what are your views on non-human animals being used in research? 



Research methods for the Behavioural Sciences, Forzano, 2009


12 responses to “Ethics!

  • Psucc0

    I am in two minds about animal research on the one hand there are, as you say, guidelines in place to protect animals from harm, and can we really try out some of the research on humans first? since many very valuable medical and psychological discoveries were first tested on animals i suppose I should feel indebted to the researches.

    However, I find it sickening to think of some of the more harmful tests being conducted on animals which have no way of letting us know how much harm these tests are doing. we have no way of knowing what adverse effects may be happening until they have happened, and its also not as if the animals have volunteered for testing, unlike human participants.

    The non emotional problem with animal testing is that, again as you have suggested, because they are non-human we don’t know for sure if the responses and the effects will be the same in humans.

  • kfh1991

    Do the ends justify the means, is a phrase that jumps to mind when I read your blog. I did my blog this week on generalisation, and I can’t help thinking that animals aren’t really that similar to humans to make it worthwhile conducting experiments on them. Many animals will die for no good reason, because the products being tested on them will never actually make any direct benefit to humans.
    The example you’ve used of the effects of cigarettes is all very well, but how can we be sure that the reactions we are observing in animals are the same ones which will affect human beings? A particular drug being tested may work really well on rabbits, but does that mean it will work on humans? Not necessarily. Also, the animals being tested will be trapped and incredibly stressed, so there is not even a certainty that their results could be generalised to all of their own species! There are too many different variables. This study on the use of oxygen in the treatment of myocardial infarction (heart stuff) doubted the validity of previous animal tests.. and retesting is expensive (
    Also, many animals are used for the testing of products such as cosmetics, and I think that for this purpose it’s not really justifiable. I believe there is a saying in the fashion industry of ‘no pain, no gain’, but just because we humans are willing to suffer for beauty, that doesn’t mean that animals should have to endure our sufferings for us.

  • liamjw91

    Interesting blog on a controversial topic, with regards to testing on humans I believe that its Ok to deceive humans in the name of research as long as the people tested do not suffer any long lasting consequences becuase of the experiments, at the minute I think we are a bit to protective of participants which may be stopping research being done. And the horrific use of animals for testing in Psychology is just wrong. Surely it must be unethical to do research such as Seligman (1975) where he electricuted dogs to the extent where some of the dogs actually died. It can’t be one rule for humans and another for animals. Also I beleive infants need more protection and shouldnt realy be tested on because similar to animals its hard to know how much discomfort they are in during a study, and they can’t give consent to participate or even withdraw from a study when they want.

  • scarlettrose23

    This is a very interesting and controversial topic to blog about, and I think you made a good point; that research on the dogs sounds truly awful.

    I heard about some research done looking into the effect marijuana has on monkeys. Many, if not all, the monkeys used in this experiment sadly died from all the marijuana smoke they inhaled, and so the researchers published their study to show how harmful marijuana can be.

    At first this may seem like pretty strong evidence showing the dangers of smoking marijuana, but it turned out that the monkeys, similar to the dogs, were forced to wear a mask and inhale marijuana fumes for very very long periods at a time. The monkeys’ deaths were inevitable, as any kind of fume or smoke that is inhaled for hours on end can kill animals, including humans, even if it’s just burning paper.

    I think some studies on animals can be justified, but these experiments on smoking are completely unethical, and as you pointed out; APA stated that animals should not be harmed if possible, but slitting a live dog’s throat to insert a smoking machine is obviously causing harm right from the start, and completely unnecessary. When human’s smoke, they don’t have a smoke machine in their throat, that research was just plain cruel.

  • psud63

    I agree that it is a very interesting topic, as to whether we can conduct potentially unethical studies if the findings benefit the population as a whole. In my opinion, i agree with APA’s stance on the topic, that animals should not be harmed if possible, and we should try our hardest to still make the study valid and worthwhile, but use other tactics than harming animals. I agree with you that APA’s view can be interpreted as quite vague, as its not always clear to tell when an animal is in pain, and how much pain is bearable before it becomes unethical, but i still think it is a helpful guideline.

  • prpdh

    With this blog your idea that the ends justify the means has some merit, but the main use of this is in animal studies where the animals are put through some unpleasant experimentation to benefit humankind such as the monkey drug trials of 1969 (Deneau, Yanagita & Seevers) which demonstrated how dangerous addictions can become.
    The monkeys in this experiment were trained to self-administer drugs such as morphine, cocaine, caffeine etc and when they had learned this the researchers left the with needles and a stockpile of the narcotic of their group – so they could see the long term effects.
    This is an experiment you could view on humans that have narcotic issues but the results that was found was that these animals became so ill and deranged from certain narcotics some even self-mutalated and most died within 2 weeks.
    I will not deny these aren’t horrific, and causing any creature to do these things is unfair. But this helped our knowledge of drugs (their effects and danger) in a way we hadn’t fully understood on that scale. It would be impossible to run this on humans in any capacity, so perhaps it might be worth turning a blind eye to animal research if it proves a useful topic to explore instead of mindlessness (

    Deneau, G., Yanagita, T., Sheevers, M.H. (1969) Self-Administration of PSychoactive Substances by the Monkey: A Measure of PSychological Dependence, Psychopharmacologia, 16(1), 30-48

  • psucfa

    Animal testing is a very controversial topic, and is sure to ignite a lot of hatred towards it, and why shouldn’t it?? For instance this happened ( This link will lead you to the Sheridan and King replication of Milgrams’ obedience study but with live puppies that were being electrocuted. This study was very astonoshing as nearly all male participants and ALL female participants went up to full shock on live puppies that they could see. Now this just seems a waste of research. The puppies, ended up dying or becoming severely depressed so much that they just took the punishment. I don’t see how this kind of punishment should be conducted in the name of science, it’s really horrific (not to mention the psychological shock that was left with the participants themselves).

    But saying that, you have to admit that studies conducted on rats and mice and such can help great advancements in scientific discovery. One study conducted on rats found that apples contain monomers and polymers that can help prevent (and possibly cure) cancer. They found this through testing on rats (

    In the end, you cannot gain permission/concent off of test animals, but I don’t belive that it’s wrong as long as you don’t make them suffer needlesly (this does link with social psychology studies largely, where no physical benefits are emerging as a result) But ofcourse you can extend this argument to the experiments that involve children as well, we cannot gain their consent either, just that of their parents. But again, my opinion of that is the same as above, if the study is involved in physical attributes, or developmental, and the parent consents then it is ethical, but certain social studies (i’m looking at you Watson!) just seem unethical to me.

    Here is that particular experiment if you want to read up more on the subject. (

  • suedonym344


    Really nice blog, and from the comments I see this is certainly a topic people care about.

    I think kfh1991 raised a really interesting point regarding generalisability, which is something we often ignore in Animal research debates. Generally I find people tend to focus on the potential harm to animals, however if results aren’t generalisable then the are being put animals through unnecessary stress/harm. Due to vast nature of Psychology, the matter of generalisability is especially tricky. When researching language and higher cognitive functions like logic, animals aren’t particularly useful because the differences between humans and animals are often too great. However in more biological research, animals can be helpful. Rats for example share an average of 85% genetic similarity with humans and some primates share more than 90%. Areas such as the visual system in humans are relatively similar to those of monkeys and as result animal research has been hugely beneficial e.g. Hubel & Wiesel won the nobel prize in 1981. Animal research can even aid us in understanding behaviour, because many of the fundamental behavioural laws such as avoiding painful stimuli are universal. Findings by Skinner, have even been used to develop token economies to reduce problem behaviours in prisons(Hobbs & Holt 1976; Ayllon & Millan, 1979). As you can see, animal research can certainly be generalisable in certain areas of psychology and thus very helpful. However I would like to make it clear that just because animal research can be generalisable, doesn’t mean that It can ever be an excuse for unnecessary harm, as the welfare of the animals should always be the priority.


    Hobbs & Holt 1976 –
    Ayllon & Millan, 1979

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