Reasons for Using Animal Subjects

Psychologists study animals for a variety of reasons. Sometimes they study the behavior of a particular animal in order to solve a specific problem. They may study dogs, for example, to learn how best to train them as watchdogs, chickens to learn how to prevent them from fighting one another in henhouses, and wildlife to learn how to regulate populations in parks, refuges, or urban areas. These are all examples of what is called applied research.

Most psychologists, though, are more interested in human behavior but study animals for practical reasons. A developmental psychologist, for example, may study an animal that has a much shorter life span than humans so that each study takes a much shorter time and more studies can be done. Animals may also be studied when an experiment requires strict controls; researchers can control the food, housing, and even social environment of laboratory animals but cannot control such variables in the lives of human subjects. Experimenters can even control the genetics of animals by breeding them in the laboratory; rats and mice have been bred for so many generations that researchers can special-order from hundreds of strains and breeds and can even obtain animals that are as genetically identical as identical twins.

Another reason psychologists study animals is that there are fewer ethical considerations as compared to research with human subjects. Physiological psychologists and neuropsychologists, in particular, may utilize invasive procedures (such as brain surgery or hormone manipulation) that would be unethical to perform on humans. Without animal experimentation, these scientists would have to do all their research on human victims of accident or disease, a situation which would reduce the number of research subjects dramatically as well as raise additional ethical considerations.

A number of factors make animal research applicable for the study of human psychology. The first factor is homology. Animals that are closely related to humans are likely to have similar physiology and behavior because they share the same genetic blueprint. Monkeys and chimpanzees are the animals most closely related to humans and thus are homologically most similar. Monkeys and chimpanzees make the best subjects for psychological studies of complex behaviors and emotions, but because they are expensive and difficult to keep, and because there are serious ethical considerations when using them, they are not used when another animal would be equally suitable.

The second factor is analogy. Animals that have a similar lifestyle to humans are likely to have some of the same behaviors. Rats, for example, are social animals, as are humans; cats are not. Rats also show similarity to humans in their eating behavior (which is one reason rats commonly live

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around human habitation and garbage dumps); thus, they can be a good model for studies of hunger, food preference, and obesity. Rats, however, do not have a similar stress response to that of humans; for studies of exercise and stress, the pig is a better animal to study.

The third factor is situational similarity. Some animals, particularly domesticated animals such as dogs, cats, domestic rabbits, and some birds, adapt easily to experimental situations such as living in a cage and being handled by humans. Wild animals, even if reared from infancy, may not behave normally in experimental situations. The behavior of a chimpanzee that has been kept alone in a cage, for example, may tell something about the behavior of a human kept in solitary confinement, but it will not necessarily be relevant to understanding the behavior of most people in typical situations.

By far the most common laboratory animal used in psychology is Rattus norvégiens, the Norwegian rat. Originally the choice of the rat was something of a historical accident. Because the rat has been studied so thoroughly over the past century, it is now often the animal of choice so that comparisons can be made from study to study. Fortunately, the rat shares many features with humans. Other animals frequently used in psychological research include pigeons, mice, hamsters, gerbils, cats, monkeys, and chimpanzees.

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Responses

  • Benigna
    Why psychologists study animals?
    2 years ago
  • mariam
    Why animals are good subject for psychology experiment?
    2 years ago
  • jennifer
    Why do psychologist study animals?
    2 years ago
  • russom
    Why some psychologists use animal?
    2 years ago
  • oona
    How similar human psychology to animal psychology?
    2 years ago
  • GIUDITTA
    Why psychologist use animals for research?
    2 years ago
  • asmara simon
    Why do psychologist use animals in experiments?
    2 years ago
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    Why same psychologist study animals behaviour?
    2 years ago
  • zahra
    Why psychologists study animal?
    2 years ago
  • efrem
    Why the use animals in pychology?
    2 years ago
  • Jennifer
    What are the reasons for why psychologistd study animals?
    2 years ago
  • Arthur
    Why di psychologist use lower animals for osychological experiments.?
    2 years ago
  • susanne
    Why do psychologists use animals in research?
    2 years ago
  • patricia
    Why do psychologist use lower animals for study?
    2 years ago
  • shishay
    Why are animals used in psychological experiments?
    2 years ago
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    Why psychologist uses animals more in their experiment?
    2 years ago
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    Why psychology study animal?
    2 years ago
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    Why do psychology study animals?
    2 years ago
  • rolando
    Why are animals considered in the study of psychology?
    2 years ago
  • Lucas
    Why do psychologists study animals and is it ethical to experiment on animals?
    1 year ago
  • adrian
    Why psychologist use animals than people?
    1 year ago
  • abrha
    Why most scientists use animals more than human beings in pratical?
    1 year ago
  • girma
    Why did psychologists use lower animals in studying behaviour?
    1 year ago
  • ferdinand
    Why psychologist use animal in the experiment?
    1 year ago
  • charles
    Why psychologists use animals instead of human to study behaviour?
    1 year ago
  • Curtis
    Why we use animals in experimental psychology?
    1 year ago
  • sirja
    Which study is better animal or human for research purpose?
    1 year ago
  • blaine
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    1 year ago
  • malva
    Why psychologist used animals in studying human behavior?
    12 months ago
  • Rosie
    Why psychologist study about animals behaviors?
    11 months ago
  • manuel
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    11 months ago
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    11 months ago
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    11 months ago
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    Why animals are used to study human behavior?
    11 months ago
  • richard
    What is the population that psychologists usually study cats and dogs or pigeons and ratsy?
    11 months ago
  • Samlad
    How can we study the behavior of animals and of humans in psychology?
    11 months ago
  • veera
    How can animal behaior be studied in psycholoy?
    10 months ago
  • ARTURO
    Why do we use animals as subjects for psychological studies?
    7 months ago
  • Benito
    Which animal population that psychologists usually study?
    6 months ago
  • miniya
    Why are animals used in psychology research?
    6 months ago
  • Michael
    Why psychologist study about the behavior of animal ?
    4 months ago
  • Kifle Robel
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    25 days ago
  • Michael Binder
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    13 days ago
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    12 days ago
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    12 days ago
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    11 days ago
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    7 days ago

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