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Psychological research, obedience and ethics
Psychological research, obedience and ethics

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Different animals, different guidelines

Although human beings are animals, for most people there is a strong conceptual division between human and non-human animals. Humans – or homo sapiens – are seen as being fundamentally different even from pan paniscus (the bonobo chimpanzee (Figure 9) – genetically our closest relative in the animal world).

Figure 9

It is this widespread belief that humans occupy a special place in nature that underpins the whole notion that it might be appropriate to carry out some types of research with non-human animals, where human research ethics would not permit such research to be done with humans.

As you have seen, it’s not that there are no ethical considerations in research with other species, but rather that different, and less stringent, considerations apply.

There is, however, a further issue here. It is not just that humans are believed to be different from non-human animals. There are also differences between animals. In fact, what is meant by the word ‘animal’? While there are many people who believe that the animal world ends with the bonobo chimpanzee, we rarely think about where it begins.

The final task in this activity encourages you to explore this question, to examine your own views and to critically consider the issues involved.