Jack Vettriano's 'The Parlour of Temptation' A2: Ethics


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This section of the perspectives topic looks at the ethical issues involved in psychological research.  There are overlaps with work covered at AS concerning the use of human participants and the old chestnuts of consent, deception, psychological harm et., but also new material looking into the emotive issue of animal research and also at what psychologists term ‘socially sensitive research (SSR), which examines the effects of research on the wider population. 

The topic is synoptic in that it requires knowledge of psychological research into a number of different areas of psychology and of the specification.  The ethics of using human participants has been covered at AS in ‘social influence’ but we have seen other research since such as Piaget’s work on children, Watson and Raynor’s treatment of Little Albert etc.  Animal research was covered in attachments (Harlow’s monkeys), stress (Brady’s executive monkeys) and this year in sleep (Rechtschaffen’s rats and Jouvet’s cats).  Even the seemingly more innocuous use of Kanzi, Koko and co. raises questions about the use of animals in research.  Finally, research into social influence and particularly at A2, intelligence, raises questions about the wider implications of psychological research on the wider population.  For example, IQ tests carried out on black army recruits in the 1920s did no harm to those involved but the findings and particularly the erroneous conclusions drawn and the way they have been applied, has been used to discriminate against the black population of America ever since. 

Your question (number 4 or 5 of section B) will examine one of these three areas so this booklet will be broken down along similar lines. 


A few examples of past questions on ethics:


(a)   Describe two ethical issues which may arise in psychological research involving human participants. (6)

(a)     Outline attempts made by researchers to resolve these or other ethical issues and assess how effective these attempts have been. (18)


(a)     Describe two ways in which psychologists have attempted to meet their responsibility to be sensitive to social and cultural diversity. (12)

(b)   Assess how successful they have been in such attempts. (12)


Describe and evaluate the case for the use of non-human animals in psychological research.


Discuss ethical issues relating to two or more psychological investigations that have involved human participants.


Critically consider ethical issues that arise in psychological investigations involving human

participants. (30 marks

Most of the first section is a copy of last year’s social influence section on ethics.


Ethical issues in Psychological research

Having read about the research of Asch, Zimbardo, Milgram and co., you should all now be familiar with some of the ethical issues raised by psychological research 

Ethics are the moral codes laid down by professional bodies to ensure that their members or representatives adhere to certain standards of behaviour.  All scientific bodies have such codes but those in psychology are particularly important because of the subject matter of the topic.

  1. Psychology is unlike most other subject areas in that its subject matter is entirely human or animal.  Because of this practically all research involves living things that can be caused physical or psychological harm.
  2. Psychological research also needs to consider the wider community.  Milgram’s research taught us something unpleasant about the human race in general.  Some research, for example studies on IQ, have been used to discriminate against different races or ethnic groups.
  3. The knowledge gained from psychological research can be exploited by people or groups to gain an advantage over others.  Skinner’s work on behaviour shaping could be abused in this way.

Ethics in psychology is broadly split into three distinct areas, dealing with protecting:

  1. The individual from physical or psychological harm
  2. The wider social group from harm or prejudice (socially sensitive research)
  3. Animals from abuse whilst being used in psychological experiments.

At A2 we study all of these in detail.  At AS we only need consider the first.


Protecting the individual in psychological research

Many of the concepts here will be familiar, since all of them have already been raised by Asch, Zimbardo and Milgram.  In this section we will look at:

  • Deception
  • Consent (informed or not)
  • Protection of participants from physical and psychological harm
  • The right to withdraw
  • The right to withdraw data
  • Confidentiality
  • Debriefing

We shall then consider ways of determining whether or not studies should take place, and strategies for minimising risks if they do.


Mr Wallace with the ‘dicky ticker.’

Milgram’s procedure involved deception, lack of informed consent, physical and psychological harm, denied participants their confidentiality and right to withdraw (allegedly). However, a therapeutic debrief was provided.



Examples of studies involving deception:

Asch, Milgram, Cruchfield, Moscovici

Deception involves either concealing the real intention of a study from participants or taking steps to mislead them at the outset.  All of the examples above used the second ploy, deliberately lying to participants about the genuine reason for a study.  Three of them (work out which ones for yourself), also used stooges.  The use of stooges always means deception has been used.

However, is deception necessary?  The researchers above would all argue that their experiments could not have taken place without it.  Imagine if Milgram had said at the start, ‘Mr Wallace is really a stooge, who will scream a bit but will receive no shocks.’  The study would have told us nothing of interest and obedience would doubtless have been close to 100%.

To a lesser extent nearly all studies involve an element of deception in that it generally isn’t a good idea to tell your participants what you are looking for in advance.  Menges (1973) estimated that as few as 3% of studies involve no deception at all.  (Some of you may use the BEM sex role inventory as part of your coursework in year 13.  Telling male participants in advance that you are trying to find how masculine or feminine they are will almost certainly influence the way they respond to the questionnaire!) 

There are a few ways of dealing with deception.  Role plays will be considered later, but the other essential step is debriefing.



It is really a matter of common courtesy to debrief your participants at the end of any procedure and inform them of the point of the research.  Debriefing is crucial if any form of deception has been employed.  

A proper debrief should:

1.  Inform participants of the purpose of the research

2.  Ensure that there are no negative or unforeseen consequences of the procedure

3.  Ensure that the participant leaves in ‘a frame of mind that is at least as sound as when they entered.’  (Aronson 1988).

4.  Give the participant the right to withdraw their data and to see the finished write-up of the report if they so wish.


As well as having the best interests of the participant in mind, debriefs can also be a useful source of additional information in an experiment.  Participants may tell you things that you would otherwise not be aware of.



George ‘dubya’ being debriefed following his four year participation in a study into the effects of having a Dick* in the Whitehouse.

George is thanked for taking part, assured that his identity will remain confidential (and not leaked to the BBC) and given the right to withdraw (from Iraq).  Researchers are assured that his frame of ‘mind’



Therapeutic debriefing

In extreme cases such as Zimbardo’s study, participants may receive questionnaires, be asked to complete diaries and have follow up meetings with the experimental team.  In the case of Milgram some participants also received follow up psychiatric visits!


Consent and Informed consent


Simply refers to participants willingly and voluntarily taking part in your experiment.  Milgram and Asch for example did obtain consent.  In the case of Milgram he placed his infamous advert in the local paper and people turned up.

Informed consent

This refers to participants giving their consent in full knowledge of the aims of the study, the expectations of them and their right to withdraw and to confidentiality.  This clearly was not the case with Asch or Milgram, but arguably was with the Zimbardo procedure.  This raises the issue of whether fully informed consent is ever possible.  If researchers know the likely outcomes of a study then what is the point in carrying it out in the first place?

Informed consent and deception are closely related in that there cannot be informed consent in any situation where deception is used.


Special cases




Children under the age of 16 are deemed not to be old enough to give consent.  In this case permission has to be sought from parents or guardians.





People in prisons or psychiatric hospitals need particular consideration.  Prisoners may feel pressured into taking part as failing to do so may prejudice their situation.  Similar concerns apply to patients.  Additionally with psychiatric patients permission may need to be sought from either relatives or psychologists.




It has been common practice by many universities to expect students to participate in experiments as a requirement of the course.  In my fresher year I was expected to earn a certain number of points by being a participant in studies. Those involving pain (like the electric shocks I suffered in acquiring my aversion to the number 3) gained higher points.  Here a certain degree of coercion is used and may not be entirely ethical.



Observations and field experiments

Piliavin conducted research on the NY underground in which stooges pretending to be blind or drunk (not both!), fell over.  The research team observed the reactions of bystanders.  In situations like this ‘participants’ are not aware that they are taking part in a study so cannot give consent.  In addition it is usually impossible to carry out debriefs afterwards




Various ways of overcoming the issue of consent will be discussed later.  These include presumptive consent and prior general consent.


Protection from physical and psychological harm 

Physical harm

The BPS guidelines suggest that participants should be exposed to no more risk than they would be in everyday life.  For example people driving cars are exposed to a certain level of risk.  If psychologists wish to study some aspect of driving related behaviour then the procedure they use should not put their participants at greater risk than this. 

There are occasions when researchers have caused their participants physical harm although these tend to be rare.  Milgram appears to have delighted in the response of some of his participants who would ‘bite their lips and dig their fingernails into their flesh.  Full blown, uncontrollable seizures were experienced by three subjects.’  (Wrightman and Deux 1979).


Psychological harm

This is more difficult to gauge but may involve embarrassment, loss of self esteem, stress and anxiety.  

Asch, Zimbardo and Milgram procedures would all have involved loss of self esteem, embarrassment and some stress.  In the case of Milgram and Zimbardo extreme anxiety.

Confidentiality is one way of protecting participants from psychological harm.  If you do something that you are ashamed of in the name of research but nobody gets to know its you its not going to be so embarrassing! 



The data protection act requires that the identity of all participants remains confidential.  As well as safeguarding privacy there is an obvious practical benefit from this approach.  Participants are unlikely to volunteer for procedures if they believe that their identity and behaviour will be divulged. 

There were clear breaches of confidentiality in the Milgram and Zimbardo studies as in both cases participants were secretly filmed. 

Guidelines require that participants are not identified unless they give their permission and various methods may be used to disguise their identity.  For example in case studies patients may be identified only by their initials such as KF or HM. 


The right to withdraw and to withdraw data

This should be available and made clear to participants before the research starts.  Both Milgram and Zimbardo claim that withdrawal was possible in their studies although when questioned afterwards it is clear that not all participants realised this.   

Advance payment was an issue in the Miolgram study.  This may put additional pressure on participants who may feel obliged to earn the money that they have received. 

The debrief should make it clear that participants have the right to withdraw their data on being told the nature of the study.  If serious deception has taken place then participants have the right to witness their data being destroyed!


Dealing with the ethical issues

This is a favourite question in which you are expected to describe and/or evaluate measures taken by psychologists to minimise the adverse effects of research.  Obvious points to mention would be seeking consent, avoiding deception, providing the right to withdraw, debriefs and confidentiality. 

For fuller marks some or all of the following could also be discussed:

  • Ethical guidelines and codes of conduct
  • Cost-benefit analyses
  • Ways of obtaining consent and avoiding deception

Let’s look at each in turn


Ethical guidelines and codes of conduct


Following the immoral experiments of the Nazis in WWII, each country set up its own set of guidelines for performing scientific research.  In Britain the British Psychological Society (BPS) and in the USA the American Psychological Association (APA), produce codes of conduct for both experimentation and for clinical practice.  Additionally a code exists for the protection of animals during psychological experiments.


For human participants the codes cover topics already mentioned such as deception, consent, withdrawal of data, confidentiality etc.



Additionally all institutes that perform psychological research have ethical committees that consider whether or not particular pieces of research should be carried out.  This body should have non psychologists that can express more objective views on research.

Obtaining consent and avoiding deception

Presumptive consent (of ‘reasonable people’)

This asks people for their views on a particular procedure.  If generally they find it acceptable then that procedure is used… but NOT on those asked. 

Prior general consent

A pool of possible participants would be asked for their views on research.  For example they may be asked about their views on the use of deception or embarrassment during research.  Only those participants who consider these ploys acceptable would then be selected for later research involving fibs etc. 

Role playing

People are asked to act out the role of participants in problematical studies involving deception or psychological harm etc.  Clearly these are less than satisfactory since people can only guess at how they would respond in such situations.   When asked, fewer than 1% of people believe that they would obey in Milgram’s study!


I have deliberately left these last two complex but crucial issues to last since they tie in nicely with both the ‘human participant’ and the ‘socially sensitive’ sections of the topic. 


Double-obligation dilemma

Research psychologists are paid by the government to do a job.  As such they have a responsibility to Society to carry out research into their chosen area.  For social psychologists in particular this entails researching on human participants in social situations.  However, they also have a responsibility (now laid down in the ethical guidelines) to protect the welfare of their participants.  As Aronson (1992) points out, there seems to be a positive correlation between the importance of the area being investigated and the likely harm that may be inflicted on individuals.  Basically, the more important the issue, the more vital it is to use deception in an attempt to disguise the nature of the research. 

Aronson (1992) believes the best way forward is the ‘cost-benefit analysis.’


Cost-benefit analyses

Committees may carry out cost-benefit analyses in which the likely benefits of a particular piece of research is weighed up against the costs to human or animal participants.  Put simply does the knowledge we gain about human behaviour and the advantages this might have for the wider population warrant the suffering or embarrassment of a few individuals? 

McGhee (2001) highlights a number of problems with cost-benefit analyses:

  1. The costs and the benefits of a particular piece of research can only be assessed in a subjective manner.  The only true judge of the costs to a particular participant is the participant themselves.  What are seen as costs by one person may in fact be seen as benefits by another!
  2. Costs and benefits are broadly going to fall into two categories; ‘long term’ and ‘short term.’  Trying to weigh these up is going to be nigh on impossible.  The benefits of a particular piece of research may take decades before it becomes apparent, similarly the long term costs to an individual, such as one of Zimbardo’s prisoners may take years to surface.
  3. Supposing that we do manage to determine the likely costs and benefits prior to a piece of research, how do we do the adding up?  How many acts of deception or psychological harm equal one new theory?
  4. Even if the researchers or society decide that the benefits of a piece of research outweigh the costs, it is unlikely that the participant will agree.  To them it is all costs in terms of time, stress and possible esteem etc. 
  5. Costs are real.  Benefits are potential!   Taking Milgram as an example.  We can imagine the costs to the individuals and they are genuine.  However, what practical use have the benefits been?  Yes we have all learned something about human nature, something that perhaps we would rather not have found out… but that hasn’t stopped further atrocities such as in the ‘former Yugoslavia’ or numerous cases in Africa. 
  6. Even with hindsight the costs and benefits are almost impossible to weigh up.  How can it be possible to weigh them up in advance of research?



Socially Sensitive Research (SSR)

There has been an assumption over the years by many psychologists that provided they follow the BPS guidelines when using human participants and that all leave in a similar state of mind to how they turned up, not having been deceived or humiliated, given a debrief, and not having had their confidentiality breached, that there are no ethical concerns with their research. 

But, consider the following examples:

  1. Caughy et al 1994 who found that middle class children put in daycare at an early age generally score less on cognitive tests than children from similar findings reared in the home. 


Assuming all guidelines were followed, neither the parents nor the children that participated would have been unduly affected by this research.  Nobody would have been deceived, consent would have been obtained, no harm would have been caused.   However, think of the wider implications of this study when the results are published, particularly for parents of middle class infants who are considering placing their young charges in day care or those who recently have!   

  1. Repeatedly, IQ tests administered to black Americans show that they typically score 15 points below the average white score. 


When black Americans are given these tests they presumably complete them willingly and are in no way harmed as individuals.  However, when published, findings of this sort seek to reinforce racial stereotypes and are used to discriminate against the black population in the job market etc.  (In extreme cases they have also led to the compulsory sterilisation of American blacks in an attempt to protect the ‘*gene-pool’).


We therefore have the bizarre situation where psychologists believe that it is unethical to embarrass or harm individual black or female participants but consider it ethically acceptable to carry out research that humiliates or harms the larger population of blacks or women in society 

As Brown (1997) put it:

‘As long as research ethics avoid the matter of whether certain questions ethically cannot be asked, psychology will conduct technically ethical research that violates a more general ethic of avoiding harm to vulnerable populations.’


Sieber & Stanley (1988) (the main names for this topic!), outline 4 groups that may be affected by psychological research:

1.                   Members of the social group being studied such as racial or ethnic group.  For example early research on IQ was used to discriminate against US Blacks.

2.                   Friends and relatives of those taking part in the study, particularly in case studies, where individuals may become famous or infamous.  Cases that spring to mind would include Genie’s mother,

3.                   The research team.  There are examples of researchers being intimidated because of the line of research they are in.

4.                   The institution in which the research is conducted. 

It is the first group of people that we are most concerned with!

Sieber & Stanley (1988) also suggest there are 4 main ethical concerns when conducting SSR:


1.                   The research question or hypothesis

2.                   The treatment of individual participants (already covered)

3.                   The institutional context

4.                   The way in which the findings of research are interpreted and applied.


The research question

Even the hypothesis or title of the research paper may raise ethical problems.  ‘Are there racial differences in IQ?’  Researchers investigating this possibility seems to suggest that they believe there are differences in IQ!  As Sieber & Stanley put it; ‘such claims merely serve the purpose of adding scientific dignity to prevailing prejudice.’  Similarly suggesting that mental illness or criminality has a genetic component may cause offence or concern to relatives of schizophrenics or serial killers!


Conduct of Research and treatment of participants

One of the major problems in carrying out socially sensitive research is maintaining the confidentiality of information that might be revealed as part of the research process.  In some areas of research, questions may reveal information of a sensitive nature (such as sexual habits or drug use). In such situations the issue of confidentiality is paramount.  If confidentiality were broken, then participants would be less willing to divulge this information in the future and further research in this area would have been compromised.

It is clear, however, that the expectations that a participant may have concerning privacy and confidentiality of information must be balanced against the interests of society to be protected against deviant or criminal behaviour.  In such cases there is a more convincing case for breaching confidentiality. 


The institutional context

There are a number of ways this may influence research

a.  The institution may affect the behaviour of the participants (e.g. Milgram).  Participants were far more likely to obey when the research was carried out at Yale University.

b.  A particular company carrying out research may use the findings to their own benefit.  For example Companies may use information about individual employees gained during research by occupational psychologists. 

Carrying out socially sensitive research also carries significant implications for the researchers themselves.  Milgram's research created outrage within psychology, across the scientific community and the general US population.  However, it is probably fair to say that this outrage stemmed not from the nature of the research but from the findings.  Milgram had demonstrated that the average US male was capable of atrocities so had pointed out something that people would rather not have known.  As a result Milgram was continuously harassed and criticized by the American press.


Interpretation and application of findings

Often findings may be blown out of all proportion or newspapers may just pick up on one aspect of findings and quote them out of context.  Hamer’s work on a ‘gay gene’ may have resulted in parents wanting tests on their offspring to see if they have the gene raising the risk of abortions for what people view as unfavourable traits.

Kelman (1965) suggests that it is the responsibility of all researchers to consider in advance the ways in which their research might be used.  This is in sharp contrast to the view taken by many scientists, that knowledge is 'ethically neutral'.


Examples of Socially Sensitive Research

Race related research

Early research into intelligence came to the conclusion that it was largely genetic in nature.  Influential psychologists in the USA such as Louis Terman backed up the findings and this led to a number of, what today would be regarded as, unpalatable measures.  A movement for eugenics (selective breeding) became popular throughout the US.  Eugenical sterilization was aimed specifically at those individuals in mental or penal institutions who, from family-pedigree analysis, were considered likely to give birth to socially defective children. Sterilization could be ordered any time after a patient had been examined by a eugenics committee that was composed of a lawyer or family member representing the individual, a judge, and a doctor or other eugenic "expert."   More than 30 states had enacted such compulsory sterilization laws by 1940.  By 1941, more than 60,000 eugenical sterilizations were performed in the United States. Iowa was persuaded by such views to pass legislation requiring ‘the prevention of the procreation of criminals, rapists, idiots, feeble-minded, imbeciles, lunatics, drunkards, drug fiends, epileptics, syphilitics, moral and sexual perverts and diseased and degenerate persons.’

A protest by eugenic supporters.  Their signs read:

“I cannot read this sign.  By what right have I children?”

“I must drink alcohol to sustain life.  Shall I transfer the craving to others?”

"Would the prisons and asylums be filled if my kind had no children?"

“I vote as bankers to myself aka the state.  Should I be allowed to propagate?”



Jensen (1969) supported by Hans Eysenck (and played down by his son Michael in your red text!), are quoted more recently as believing that the higher scores achieved by whites on IQ tests were due largely to genetic superiority.  Such entrenched and prejudiced attitudes are very difficult to alter once they have become established.  More recent research has included:

·         Rushton (1990) presenting a paper at the annual meeting of the APA (American Psychological Association) stating that blacks have smaller brains than whites resulting in their lower academic performance.  Even in the unlikely event of this being true you should all know (as should Rushton) that it’s not what you’ve got it’s what you do with it that matters!*   Einstein’s brain was if anything, slightly smaller than average!

·         Levin (1990) concluded that since blacks are not as intelligent as whites and little could be done about this in terms of education so programmes established to improve performance (such as Operation Headstart) should be abandoned.   

Of course, for such ideas to become established throughout the population as a whole requires media coverage.  This as you are all surely aware doesn’t always provide a balanced view and newspapers particularly pick and choose the juicy and sensationalist bits to publish often resulting in even greater bias than the original work suggested. 

*or as Ebenezer Blackadder once said… ‘it’s not what you’ve got it’s where you stick it!!!’  


Scarr & Weinberg (1976)

In this classic study the researchers showed that adopting black children into white middle class families could significantly increase their IQ (by an average of about 15 points or one standard deviation!).  Ironically this was meant to highlight the importance of environment in determining IQ in response to work that had been done earlier by the bunch above!   Unfortunately this too was seen to undermine America’s black population since it was interpreted that black families were unable to take care of their children. 



Sticking with IQ and the nature/nurture debate there is also the controversy surrounding Sir Cyril Burt and Britain’s 11-plus system.   Sir Cyril, and others, convinced of the largely genetic nature of intelligence advocated the system of tests at age eleven that decided your future education.  The logic was simple: ‘thick’ at eleven, always ‘thick’ since it was in your genes.  In which case what point is there in attempting to educate you and your ‘thick’ genes?  Result: those that passed their eleven plus went on to a decent ‘grammar’ education, and the rest a second class ‘secondary modern’ version.  Generations of British school children suffered from this system and probably didn’t get the education they deserved.  We now appreciate (not the Royal ‘we’ cos I mean you too) that intelligence is far more complex than Burt made out and the contributory factors are far from entirely genetic. 


Alternative sexuality

The main focus of research in this area has historically been on the causes of homosexuality.   The findings of such research has played an important part in determining media coverage of and society’s attitude towards the issue.  Up until relatively recently, homosexuality was seen as a disorder and treated accordingly by early psychological studies with research concentrating on the treatment of homosexuals.  Methods included psychoanalysis, drug treatments and even aversion therapy, with electric shocks and emetics being used in an attempt to create unpleasant associations.  It wasn’t until 1973 that homosexuality was removed from the DSM. 



More recent research has looked at the possible causes of homosexuality, particularly its genetic determination.  Hamer’s claim in 1993 to have discovered ‘a gay gene’ on the X chromosome was received with a mixed reaction form the ‘gay community.’  Some saw it as a positive step since it helped to remove the issue of blame whereas the majority believed it was a backward step that could be used further to discriminate against them, since talk of ‘causes’ again suggested that homosexuality was a disorder, and worst still it created the possibility that one day soon tests may be available for detecting likely homosexuals whilst still in the womb with the attendant risks of genetic engineering and eugenics. 


Right: Hamer believed that site Xq28 was the likely location of the ‘gay gene.’



Eye Witness Testimony 

At first seems like a strange topic of research to be involved in such a controversial area as SSR.  However, it does provide us with an example of SSR doing good in society as opposed to causing harm.  First of all EWT research (Loftus and co.), has shown us that our memories are fallible and that defendants therefore should not be convicted on the testimony of witnesses alone.

Secondly and if you like flipping this argument on its head, you have the issue of whether a child’s testimony should be permissible in court: 

The idea that children can be trusted to give (and, presumably to obtain) reliable evidence has often been challenged. For example, a mere 20 years ago or so in 1984, Heydon, an English lawyer, voiced considerable scepticism: First, a child’s powers of observation are less reliable than an adult’s. Second, children are prone to live in a make believe world … Thirdly, they are also very egocentric…Fourthly because of their immaturity they are very suggestible... A fifth danger is that children often have little notion of the duty to speak the truth. Finally children sometimes behave in a way evil beyond their years). 

However, more recent research (e.g. Johnson, 2002) has suggested that children’s testimony is more reliable than once thought and it is now not uncommon for children to give testimony in criminal trials (e.g. abuse cases). 


Bowlby’s maternal deprivation hypothesis

Bowlby considered that the young infant developed a firm attachment to its mother within the first six months of life, and that if this attachment or bond was then broken the infant would suffer permanent and irreversible consequences in terms of its social, cognitive and emotional development.

You should all appreciate by now that other arguments apart, Bowlby’s work was methodologically flawed and that as a result his conclusions are questionable to say the least.  Most notably in hospital children were not only deprived of maternal care but also of all other forms of stimulation.  Also, of course, being a correlation, cause and effect cannot be determined and Bowlby failed to consider the importance of poverty in causing both early hospitalisation and later delinquent behaviour.  However, Bowlby’s work was quickly seized upon by politicians of the day who saw the opportunity to use it to their own ends.  Women were encouraged to leave the factories and the farms and return to their perceived rightful place in the home so that men returning from war would have jobs to go to. 

Culture and research

Research into ethnic groups within a society can cause particular problems due to the following reasons:

Acculturation stress: refers to the extent to which members of ethnic groups are torn between conforming to their ethnic origins or conforming to the demands of the Society in which they find themselves.  That stress makes them a more vulnerable group.

Any findings that seem to suggest that they are in any way inferior to the native majority will further isolate them from Society.

Research that does portray them in an unfavourable light may alienate members of the group and cause them to question their own roots.  The end result of this can be marginalisation in which they neither feel part of their own ethnic group or part of the majority. 

It is essential that researchers in the area are aware of the special circumstances of such groups and ensure that their research (or its perception) do not add to the pressures. 


Ten Ethical Issues in Socially Sensitive Research

Sieber and Stanley suggest the following guidelines for carrying out SSR.  There is some overlap between these and research on human participants in general.

Privacy This refers to people, rather than data.  The researcher may gain more information than the participant wanted to give.  Asking people questions of a personal nature (e.g. about sexuality) could offend.

ConfidentialityThis refers to data.  Information (e.g. about H.I.V. status), leaked to others, may affect the participant’s life.

Sound & valid methodology.  This is even more vital when the research topic is socially sensitive.  Academics are able to detect flaws in method but the lay public and the media often don’t.  When research findings are publicised, people are likely to take them as fact and policies may be based on them.  Examples are Bowlby’s maternal deprivation studies and intelligence testing.

Deception.  Causing the wider public to believe something which isn’t true by the findings you report (e.g. that parents are totally responsible for how their children turn out).

Informed consent.  Participants should be made aware of how taking part in the research may affect them.

Justice & equitable treatment.  Examples of unjust treatment are (i) publicising an idea which creates prejudice against a group & (ii) withholding a treatment, which you believe is beneficial, from some participants so that you can use them as controls. 

Scientific freedomScience should not be censored but there should be some monitoring of sensitive research.  The researcher should weigh their responsibilities against their rights to do the research. 

Ownership of data.  When research findings could be used to make social policies which affect people’s lives, should they be publicly accessible?  Sometimes, research is commissioned by a party with their own interests (e.g. an industry, an advertising agency, a political party, the military).  Some people argue that scientists should be compelled to disclose their results so that other scientists can re-analyse them.  If this had happened in Burt’s day, there may not have been such widespread belief in the genetic transmission of intelligence.

The values of social scientists.  Psychologists can be divided into 2 main groups:  those who advocate a humanistic approach (individuals are important and worthy of study, quality of life is important, intuition is useful) and those advocating a scientific approach (rigorous methodology, objective data).  The researcher’s values may conflict with those of the participant/institution.  For example, if someone with a scientific approach was evaluating a counselling technique based on a humanistic approach, they would judge it on criteria which those giving & receiving the therapy may not consider important.

Cost/benefit analysis If the costs outweigh the potential/actual benefits, it is unethical.  However, it is difficult to assess costs & benefits accurately & the participants themselves rarely benefit from research.


Sieber & Stanley advise:

Researchers should not avoid researching socially sensitive issues.  Scientists have a responsibility to society to find useful knowledge.

They need to take more care over consent, debriefing, etc., when the issue is sensitive.

They should be aware of how their findings may be interpreted & used by others 

They should make explicit the assumptions underlying their research, so that the public can consider whether they agree with these.

They should make the limitations of their research explicit (e.g. ‘the study was only carried out on white middle class American male students’, ‘the study is based on questionnaire data, which may be inaccurate’, etc.

They should be careful how they communicate with the media and policymakers 

They should be aware of the balance between their obligations to participants and those to society (e.g. if the participant tells them something which they feel they should tell the police/social services) 

They should be aware of their own values and biases and those of the participants.


Arguments for SS 

Psychologists have devised methods to resolve the issues raised.

SSR is the most scrutinised research in psychology.  Ethical committees reject more SSR than any other form of research.

By gaining a better understanding of issues such as gender, race and sexuality we are able to gain a greater acceptance and reduce prejudice.

SSR has been of benefit to society, for example EWT.  This has made us aware that EWT can be flawed and should not be used without corroboration.  It has also made us aware that the EWT of children is every bit as reliable as that of adults.

Most research is still carried out on white middle class Americans (about 90% of research quoted in texts!).  SSR is helping to redress the balance and make us more aware of other cultures and outlooks.


Arguments against SSR

Flawed research has been used to dictate social policy and put certain groups at a disadvantage.

Research has been used to discriminate against groups in society such as sterilisation of people in the USA between 1910 and 1920 because they were of low intelligence, criminal or suffered from psychological illness.

The guidelines used by psychologists to control SSR lack power and as a result are unable to prevent indefensible research being carried out



Examples of hopefully familiar psychological research that, over the years, has raised ethical issues!

Researcher(s) and date

 Schachter (1959)

Title of study (if known)

A stress shared is a stress halved (anxiety loves anxious company)

Syllabus area

Inter-personal attraction

Description of study

Female psychology students who had volunteered for an experiment were led to believe they were going to receive electric shocks. One group told it would be painful the other told it would not.  There was going to be a delay before the shock, and participants had the choice of waiting alone or with someone else.  The high anxiety group (painful) tended to opt for company rather then alone.


Ethical Issues raised by the study

Deception, not told purpose of experiment, and no electric shocks to be given.

Consent was not informed (true purpose of study not known).

Some level of psychological harm caused (stress/anxiety).





Researcher(s) and date

 Felipe & Sommer (1966) –Nb England win the World Cup!!!

Title of study (if known)

Library Study

Syllabus area

Interpersonal attraction

Description of study

Female students sat at a table in a library had an experimenter sit near to them.  In one of the conditions he moves a chair nearer to the ‘participant.’  It was found that the nearer the experimenter sat the more likely the student was to move or put a barrier such as a bag between them and the intruder.


Ethical Issues raised by the study

No consent, informed or otherwise was gained since the participants were not aware of the experiment.

No right to withdraw given

Some degree of discomfort obviously experienced by some participants.

No debrief was possible

Participants not aware of being observed.



Researcher(s) and date

Piliavin (1969)

Title of study (if known)

New York Subway

Syllabus area

Bystander apathy

Description of study

Stooge pretends to collapse on a New York subway train.  The stooge can be black, white, appear to be drunk, carrying a bottle in a brown paper bag and smelling of alcohol, or appear to be disabled. On lookers are observed to see how they will react.

Ethical Issues raised by the study

Participants unaware of the experiment

No right to withdraw

No consent, informed or otherwise since participants not aware of expt.

Possibility of anxiety/stress being caused.

No possibility of debriefing to allay concerns/ anxieties.



Researcher(s) and date

 Milgram (1963)

Title of study (if known)


Syllabus area


Description of study

What can I say that hasn’t been said already, except yet again to emphasise that no electric shocks were given!


Ethical Issues raised by the study

Deception, participants not aware of the nature of the study, or that Mr Wallace was a stooge, or that no electric shocks would be given.

Consent was obtained but due to the deception this was not informed.

Clear signs of psychological distress suffered by some participants.

Right to withdraw was there but not explicitly stated by Milgram. (Issue of money makes right to withdraw difficult).


Additional Comments

In any essay on the ethics of Milgram be sure to point out Milgram’s justifications and defences of the study.




Researcher(s) and date

Wolpe (1960)


Title of study (if known)


Syllabus area

Phobias (classical conditioning)

Description of study

Woman with a car phobia is locked in the back seat of a car and driven around for 4 hours.  She becomes hysterical, but eventually calms down.  The idea of flooding being that the patient eventually learns to associate the phobic stimulus (car) with relaxation.

Ethical Issues raised by the study

Consent most certainly not obtained!

Patient clearly suffered extreme distress.

No right to withdraw from the experiment, particularly since the doors were locked.

Long term effects on the woman could have been serious.


Researcher(s) and date

Sherif et al (1961)


Title of study (if known)

Robber’s Cave

Syllabus area

Prejudice and discrimination

Description of study

22 eleven and twelve year olds at a holiday camp are split into 2 groups.  The two groups are put into competition with each other, resulting in fighting, raids on each others living quarters and refusal to eat with each other. 


Ethical Issues raised by the study

Issue of consent from minors.  BPS and APA guidelines (not available at the time) recommend permission of parents or guardian.

Children not aware of being part of an experiment so we have the issue of deception.

No right to withdraw.

What could be the long term effects of the study on the participants.

Inciting aggression and violence in others.


Additional Comments

The fortnight ended with team building activities so that both groups left on friendly terms!


Researcher(s) and date

 Schacter & Singer (1962)

Title of study (if known)


Syllabus area

Bio-psychology (emotion)

Description of study

Male college students were told they would receive an injection of vitamins to see what effect this would have on their eye sight.  In fact some received injections of adrenaline, to see how this would effect their emotions.

Ethical Issues raised by the study

Clear case of deception.

With deception informed consent is not possible.

Issue of injecting participants with a drug without gaining their consent.

Participants were observed whilst in a waiting room without their permission.

Arousal/stress induced in some participants.

Stooges employed to sit in waiting room and behave either happily or angrily.

Additional Comments

At the time influential.  Many years later the data was checked and found to be flawed, some participants not included in the final write up. Expt has not been replicated.



Researcher(s) and date

 Zimbardo et al (1973)

Title of study (if known)

Stanford Prison Simulation

Syllabus area

Conformity & obedience

Description of study

Won’t insult your intelligence!


Ethical Issues raised by the study

Informed consent was obtained!  (participants agreed to their human rights being suspended).

No deception.

Clear signs of physical as well as psychological distress caused, eg. Lack of bedding and food.  Participants in solitary confinement.

Right to withdraw was clear since some participants did!

But issue of pre-payment again would make withdrawal difficult for some.

Some claim that the experiment should have been stopped sooner, (appoint Zimbardo accepts).

Long term consequences for those that took part.



 Elliott (as reported by Aronson & Osherow 1980)

Title of study

Blue eyes-brown eyes experiment

Syllabus area

Prejudice and discrimination

Description of study

Jane Elliott, a teacher tells her class of 9 year olds that people with brown eyes are more intelligent and better than those with blue eyes.  Blue-eyed students were to sit at the back and be given less break time!  Very quickly the blue-eyed became depressed, angry and started to perform less well.  The next day she told the class that she’d made a mistake and that blue-eyed were more intelligent.  At the end she debriefed students.

Ethical Issues raised by the study

Children were deceived.

Consent was not obtained from parents.

Psychological distress, though short lived, would have been caused.

Since children were unaware that they were in an experiment., there was no chance to withdraw.

Additional Comments

18 years later in a follow up by Elliott, the students reported themselves as being more tolerant and ‘actively opposed to discrimination.’



Darley & Latane (1968)

Syllabus area

Altruism and bystander apathy

Description of study

Participants were asked to listen to others talking over an intercom and then comment on what was said.  No others actually existed the voices were recordings.  The other ‘participants’ mention in passing that they suffer from epilepsy.  Later they start to choke and cry out before going silent.  Researchers were looking to see if number of listeners (witnesses) affects the speed of reporting the incident.

Ethical Issues raised by the study

Consent was gained, but since nature of study was not made clear, consent was not informed.

Participants were deceived into believing they were in an emergency situation.

Participants caused anguish and possible distress.

Additional Comments

When debriefed and asked to complete a questionnaire, participants believed that the deception was justified.  None reported feelings of anger towards the experimenters.



The use of non-human animals in research 

A somewhat strange and disjointed area of the topic since it requires a more general view of animal research considering the pros and cons, practicalities and ethics as well as a smattering of philosophy!  

The specification states:

‘The use of non-human animals in psychological investigations, including constraints on their use and arguments (both ethical and scientific) for and against their use. 

To give you a better idea of what they expect here’s a few past paper questions 

“We have learned a great deal in psychology by studying non-human animals. This would seem to outweigh any scientific and ethical arguments against the use of non-human animals in psychological research.”

Critically consider the use of non-human animals in psychology, with reference to issues raised in the quotation above. (30 marks)


There is a lot of opposition to the use of non-human animals in psychological research, but the truth is that animals are so similar to us genetically and are so convenient to use that we would be foolish not to carry out such investigations.’

With reference to the quotation above, discuss the use of non-human animals in psychological research.


(a)     State how non-human animals have been employed in two investigations drawn from different areas of psychological research. (2 x 3)

(b)    Outline ethical guidelines which have been developed for the use of non-human animals in psychological  research (6)

(c)     Critically evaluate arguments for and against the use of non-human animals in psychological investigations.



(a)     Outline ways in which the welfare of non-human animals has been protected in psychological research. (6)

(b)     Discuss arguments for and against the use of non- human animals in psychological research. (18)


I therefore see the main issues as follows:

  1. Arguments for using animals in psychological research
  2. Arguments against using animals in psychological research
  3. The ethical issues and speciesism (the philosophical bit courtesy of Singer, Gray and Ryder).
  4. Dealing with the issues raised: guidelines, Bateson and the 3Rs

Throughout you will also find specific examples of animals in psychology useful, together with the issues involved and what those studies have told us.


Arguments for the use of animals in psychological researc 

It is possible to carry out procedures on other species that simply would not be allowed on humans.  Examples include Brady’s executive monkey, Morgan’s hamsters, Pavlov’s dogs etc…

Environments can be very tightly controlled in ways which would not be possible with human participants.  Such tight control of variables does allow for cause and effect relationships to be determined.  Examples: Seligman’s dogs, Skinner’s rats.

Assuming a quantitative rather than a qualitative difference between ourselves and other species (i.e. assuming that human behaviour is different from other species only in that ours has become more complex), then we can draw comparisons between the causes and function of animal and human behaviour.  Basically this is the basis of comparative psychology (hence its name!).  This is an argument that can be elaborated.   There are many similarities between the human and animal brain, particularly once you’ve dug below the cortex.  Underlying structures of the midbrain for example are quite similar across all mammals including humans.  This may lead us to believe that there is continuity in function.  All the fascinating stuff we did on language should now come rushing back like that dodgy kebab you had only half an hour ago.  Skinner (continuity) thinks all of our behaviours are continuous with other species.  Chomsky (discontinuity) believes there are huge gaps between us and other species, most notably in the case of language, which he, and others, argue no other animals possess.  Given all that, to what extent can we generalise?   

Good example there on how to create a balanced argument out of a simple issue.  Rather than say ‘can we generalise?’ as I see all the time in essays, use a bit of imagination and think about specific examples that you have come across in the past two years.  Remember this is a synoptic paper 

Following on from generalisation:  Having tested an idea on another species and gained some insight, then more tightly controlled and ethical studies can be conducted on humans.  Perfect example would be Bowlby’s variations on Bowlby’s imprinting research.  You could also mention the human versions of Seligman’s work on dogs in which loud noises were administered rather than electric shocks.  (On a point of interest… loud noises are of course potentially more harmful than electric shocks!) 

Generations of animals can be studies in a relatively short period of time.  If you are investigating a drug effect and want to know if it will effect offspring, clearly, ethical issues apart, this is not going to be viable on humans since you could be waiting 30 years.  Rats on the other hand can be knocking out a batch of sprogs within months 

Finally, they are smaller than humans, don’t eat as much and are cheaper to maintain!  


Of course, not all psychologists are cruel to their animals.   Lorenz (perhaps more of an ethologist) preferred to watch species in their natural environment.  Animals are of interest in their own right and much can be learned about their behaviour, and perhaps our own simply by observation.  

More recently animals have been used by psychologists as forms of therapy for humans and of course in recent years in the US there has been a fashion for animal therapists in which some pampered pets are getting the benefits from years of research on their cousins.   (Perhaps wouldn’t mention this last point in an essay though).


Arguments against the use of animals in psychological research 

Practical and methodological

Generalising from one species to another is difficult.  Each species has adapted to survive in its own niche (or place in the grand scheme of things).  As a result each species has evolved its own unique set of behaviours that will be of little use to other species.  Koestler (1970) referred to generalising from rats to humans as ratomorphism.  Morphine has a calming effect on humans and coincidently on rats too.  However it causes mania in cats and mice.  Clearly, generalising can be a serious issue. 

As we saw in attachments, a lot of animal behaviour is instinctive or pre-programmed.  Learning seems to play a much lesser role in animal behaviours than in human.  Lorenz’s Jays, having imprinted on him in early life, seemed to assume that females of the species are six feet tall, bearded and smell of stale tobacco!   Humans however, are able to overcome the effects of early life and learn from earlier mistakes. 

The ecological validity of experiments carried out in labs is just as much an issue with animals as it is with humans.  Again an animal’s behaviour, caged in a lab, in a very artificial environment, is going to be very different to its behaviour in the wild.  Animals often develop abnormal behaviours such as pacing and self-mutilation when confined.  Other behaviours, such as mating, may become inhibited (giant pandas being one example).

Finally, animals do not possess language!  This sets humans apart from other species, allowing much greater levels of communication both between individuals and across generations.  As a result we are aware of the successes and failures of thousands of years of civilisation.  Animals on the other hand show limited cross-cultural transmission from one generation to the next.

 Analogy and anthropomorphism (what I think of as the Disney effect)

There is a tendency to view animal behaviour from a human standpoint and as a result probably read emotions and motivations into their behaviour that really do not exist.  Analogy refers to our tendency to assume that behaviours that look like human versions have the same motivation.  For example Bowlby likening human attachment formation to imprinting in chicks, a bee defending a hive is likened to a soldier fighting for his country etc.   Anthropomorphism on the other hand is our tendency to read human emotions into animal behaviour.  Cows grieving at the loss of a calf (courtesy of Carla Lane) or dogs feeling your sorrow because of those big sad eyes.




The ethics of using animals in psychological research


The issue of speciesism

Ryder (1990) describes this as ‘discrimination and exploitation based upon a difference in species.’  Singer likens speciesism to racism.   As we shall see there are three main protagonists here and I’ll consider them in order of their objections to speciesism:

Gray believes that we have a duty to our own species and this should determine our motives.  It is therefore acceptable to inflict higher levels of suffering on other species in order to prevent lower levels of suffering in our own.  His argument is based on an evolutionary approach to the debate.  Kin selection is the tendency of any species to put its own interests before the interests of other species (strictly speaking it is putting the interests of your own relatives above those of others, but the same ideas apply).   He particularly objects to the way animal rights activists single out experimentation whilst ignoring farming methods and the keeping of animals as pets.

Singer objects to Gray’s views and likens speciesism to racism since both discriminate on the grounds of similarity to ourselves.  However, he does acknowledge that there are circumstances in which man should be put first.  Using his own example, if he saw a man and a lion fighting he would shoot the lion.  His reason; the man can plan for his future whereas the lion lives for the moment.  Compare this to the humanistic perspective to be mentioned soon 

Ryder suggests that speciesism and racism both discriminate on the grounds of physical appearance (perhaps a case of two legs better than four) and believes that inflicting pain on any species is always wrong. 


Putting the debate into an historical perspective you have the opposing views of Descartes, Darwin.  Descartes likened animals to machines that have no souls.  If this is the case then any amount of experimentation, pain and suffering is acceptable.  However, of course it can also be argued that such research would be of limited value if they are so unlike us in the nature of their minds and behaviour.  Darwin on the other hand was the first continuity theorist seeing humans as only quantitatively different from other species.  He reported signs of emotions in other species and believed many had behaviours strikingly similar to our own.  This argument of course suggests that generalisations would be possible, so experimentation is a practical possibility, however, ethically it makes it questionable if they feel pain and suffering as we do 

Finally in this section, the humanists see humans as unique in that they are goal-orientated and striving for self actualisation.  Other species (as Singer pointed out) live for the moment and never progress beyond the first rung of Maslow’s hierarchy (food and sex).


Left: Rene Descartes of ‘I think therefore I am’ fame.

Right: Charles Darwin following a selective breeding programme!




Dealing with the issue

Ethical guidelines (1985)

As with human studies each country has its own set.  In Britain these are laid down the BPS.  An abridged version covering some of the main points follows:

Researchers need to consider the specific needs of each species for example how they may react to stress, pain or being kept in isolation or overcrowded conditions.

Numbers should be kept as small as possible (see 3Rs later) 

[Obviously] endangered species should be avoided, unless it is part of a conservation programme.

Procedures that involve pain and distress should only be used if there is no alternative method of study available.  In the UK an Home Office licence is required for such methods 

Surgical and pharmaceutical procedures on vertebrates can only be carried out with a Home Office licence and only qualified staff should be involved 

Aftercare is emphasised so that animals do not suffer following such procedures 

Investigations in their natural environment should cause minimal disruption and researchers need to be aware that marking and tagging in itself can cause undue stress.


The 3Rs


Researchers should, wherever possible, look for alternative methods of investigation.  In recent years computer models and simulations have reduced some of the need for animal experimentation.


Fewer animals should be used.  Research teams sharing information and carrying out less replication helps in this regard, as does use of better statistical methods for determining levels of significance.


Animal suffering can be reduced by paying more attention to techniques being used. 


Bateson’s decision cube          

The cube has 3 axes measuring suffering, certainty of benefit and quality of research.  If the research is high quality, certain to be beneficial and not going to inflict suffering then it will fall into the hollow section (top front) meaning research should proceed.  Painful, low quality research with lower likelihood of success will be bottom back in the solid and should not proceed.  Most research will not be clear cut but the rule is solid should not continue, hollow should. 

The problem of course is how to determine benefit in advance.  Also who will decide on quality of research and the level of suffering?  Both of which are subjective measures.



Reducing suffering and numbers us

The 3 Rs

1. Replacement of animals by other methods such as computer models and simulations.

2. Reduction in the number of animals used.  More advanced statistical methods can be used allowing significant results based on lower numbers.  Sharing of information between institutions allows the number of replications to be reduced.

3. Refinement of experimental methods to inflict less pain and suffering.


In the 1970s in the Netherlands: 5000 monkeys a year were being used to develop and test polio vaccines.  By the 1990s this had fallen to 10.

Also worth mentioning that many of the guidelines for human research cannot be applied to animal experimentation, for example consent, right to withdraw and debriefs!!!


UK Guidelines

Institutions using animals in research must be licensed and undergo regular visits from the Home Office who have overall responsibility for animal research.  Research on vertebrates is controlled by the 1986 Animals Act.  Additional guidelines are published by the BPS (1985).

BPS Guidelines give advice for the observation of species in the wild as well as under lab conditions.





Evaluative Points to Make in Essays on the ethics of using non-human animals in research


O     Humans have a moral obligation to improve human life. This is a speciesist assumption, which dominates the issue of Non Human Animal research.

O     Issue of generalisation. How much can research on animals tell us about the human race? Drug studies often obtain conflicting results from different species. Cancer research for example is sensitive to physiological differences across species: Vitamin C is believed to help the human body ward off cancer. However, rats and mice synthesis 100 times the recommended daily dose of this vitamin, so how much can cancer research on rodents tell us about the human disease? Ecological Validity: Laboratory experiments on animals are unlikely to be able to generalise to other situations.

O     Confounding Variables: The stress induced by being in an unnatural environment, e.g. being isolated, confined, handled etc can have significant effects on Non Human Animals. Such stress can reduce immune levels, causing increased susceptibility to infections and even tumours. Stress also influences hormone and antibody levels.

O     Field research: Ethical issues of manipulation of the natural environment- long-term effects. Also not of direct benefit to humans, so possibly of low priority (Difficult to get funding). However, such research has provided significant improvements in the case of zoos and farm environments, training domestic animals and horses, work in conservation and endangered species, eg Dian Fossey’s work with mountain gorillas.

O     Cost Benefit analysis: How easy is it to judge NHA suffering? What level of suffering constitutes questionable research? There are also issues of how we can judge suffering across species, as there are differences in the way animals express discomfort etc. How can the proposed benefits of research be judged?  However despite such problems it is clear using Bateson’s model that some early experiments would not have been allowed, eg Brady’s (1958) Executive monkey experiment.

O     It is clear that the debate over the use of animals in research has contributed greatly to the tightening of guidelines and legislation. Use of higher order organisms (Eg monkeys) has been drastically reduced. A researcher now needs permission from the home office to conduct research with animals (vertebrates). Kimmel (1996) states that approximately 90% of animals used in research today are rodents or birds.

O     Ethically questionable Animal experiments: Pavlov’s classical conditioning work, Skinner’s learning theory work, Harlow (1959) maternal deprivation. Garcia & Koelling (1966) Rat taste aversion studies. Reisen (1950) Perceptual studies on chimpanzees.




Syllabus area

Moruzzi & Magoun (1949)


Species used

No. (if known)


Description of study

The researchers either stimulated the RAS (Reticular Activating System) or destroyed the area completely.  This caused waking of sleeping cats or permanent coma respectively.



Ethical Issues raised by the study

Cats were kept in confined conditions in laboratories and underwent procedures that left them in permanent coma!




Knowledge acquired

Showed that the RAS was crucial in determining levels of consciousness.




Syllabus area




Species used

No. (if known)


Description of study

The dogs were confined by being strapped into a frame.  Food was paired with a bell over a number of trials and the dogs learn to associate the two together.  Response was measured by saliva being collected.  This necessitated the gullet of the dog being



Ethical Issues raised by the study

Confinement of dogs for long periods in restraints.  Surgery on dogs to open oesophagus so swallowing not possible.



Knowledge acquired

Basic rules for classical conditioning: generalisation, patterns of conditioning, extinction, higher order conditioning.  Treatments for phobias and other disorders based on findings.




Syllabus area

Brady’s executive monkeys

Species used

No. (if known)

Rhesus monkey

Description of study

Monkeys yoked together and given shocks.  Executive has a lever that can prevent some but not all the shocks.  Exec. Eventually dies from perforated gastric ulcers.

Ethical Issues raised by the study

Intelligent species treated appallingly.  Suffer slow and painful death on top of the distress suffered during the procedure itself.


Knowledge acquired

Limited!  Brady assumed a causal link between control, stress and physical illness but this was not possible given his flawed method and failure to randomly allocate monkeys to each condition.







Syllabus area

Harry Harlow

Species used

No. (if known)

Rhesus monkeys

Description of study

Removed from mothers at birth and given surrogates, usually made from wire or terry cloth. 

Ethical Issues raised by the study

Distress caused during procedure.  Unable to develop normal social relationships with other members of species.  Picked on by other monkeys who see them as very submissive and timid. 


Knowledge acquired

Questioned the psychodynamic and behaviourist theories of attachment since it suggests food was not crucial.  Evidence for the long term effects of privation.