Animal learning theory is becoming more prominent every day and shapes the development of psychology. One of the reasons is simply because this learning theory is relevant to human learning and human memory. On the relevance of animal cognition process to humans’ cognitive development, an accurate model of animal intelligence would provide a tremendous spur to its study in humans', and armed with such knowledge it is likely that ‘considerable insights into the workings of the human brain will follow.
Also, animals are less complicated than humans: their behavioral repertoire is comparatively much simpler than humans’ and their brains are less developed, which makes it a lot easier to manipulate. However, despite the differences that exist between humans and animals, there are more similarities than there are differences, especially in the learning and memory process. Animals such as rats and chimpanzee are especially good at learning the locations of reliable sources of food. This ability is fully exploited by psychologists interested in the process of place and other type of learning process, especially the kinds of mental associations that might be formed (Argosy University, 2013).
The ethical concerns that arise from using animals to study human development is that; animals are living, sentient beings, and animal experimentation by its very nature takes a considerable toll on animal life. In most cases, researchers attempt to minimize the pain and distress experienced by animals in laboratories, but suffering is nonetheless inherent as animals are held in sterile, isolated cages, forced to suffer disease and injury, or euthanized at the end of the experiment. Even though the majority of the scientists using animals for experiment purposes are well-intentioned, there are still a number of them who fail to understand the fact that animals are not machines; they experience pains and sufferance the same way we do. So when the proper procedures are not being followed by scientist, it is the same as if they were torturing a human being (Research Animal Resources, 2013).
However, the using of animals for research purpose is very important, because it can prevent human from suffering or die in some cases. Experiment on animal has helped created medicines that have helped save millions of lives so far. Most of all, animals are the closest species related to humans, if researchers can’t use animals for experimental purposes, many of those experiments would have to be performed on humans being; which would be very unethical. So the use of animals for research study is a necessary evil. But having said that I also believe that the use of animals by scientist should be restricted, because, many of these experiments don’t necessarily need to use animals. According to Williams S. M., (2004) “Nine out of ten drugs that appear promising in animal studies go on to fail in human clinical trials.” The reason simple, the differences between humans and animals in terms of our physiology, anatomy, and metabolism make it difficult to apply data derived from animal studies to human conditions.
For example: Acetaminophen is poisonous to cats but is a therapeutic in humans; penicillin is toxic in guinea pigs but has been an invaluable tool in human medicine; morphine causes hyper-excitement in cats but has a calming effect in human patients; and oral contraceptives prolong blood-clotting times in dogs but increase a human’s risk of developing blood clots. Many more of such examples exist. Even within the same species, similar disparities can be found among different sexes, breeds, age and weight ranges, and ethnic backgrounds (Williams S.M., et al., 2004).
Argosy University, (2013), The Psychology of Learning and Behavior. Data Retrieve From: http://digitalbookshelf.argosy.edu/#/books/0558220231/pages/48393113
Matthews, R.A.J. (2008). Medical Progress Depends on Animal Models – Doesn’t It? Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine, 101: 95-98.
Research Animal Resources, (2013), Animals Scientific Research Use: Ethics and Alternatives. Data Retrieve From: http://www.ahc.umn.edu/rar/ethics.html
Williams S.M., et al., (2004). The use of animal models in the study of complex disease: all else is never equal or why do so many human studies fail to replicate animal findings? Bioessays, 26(2): 170-179.