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

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Activity 3: Researching animals

You have just learned about the ethics of animal research; now you have the opportunity of hearing from two psychologists working with animals in two films, Researching Animals..

Reading about research that psychologists have conducted with animals is often fascinating, but seeing how the research is conducted is even better. Film A (8 minutes) introduces the work of Alex Thornton with meerkats; in Film B (17 minutes) you will learn about Tetsuro Matsuzawa’s work with chimpanzees.

First, watch the two films without interruption. After doing so, read ‘Issues to consider’ below, then watch them again, keeping these issues in mind. Make sure that you take some notes.

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Film A: Researching Animals (meerkats)
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Film B: Researching Animals (chimpanzees)
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Issues to consider

  • Alex Thornton has looked at how meerkats teach their young to catch scorpions. To what extent is this process similar to or different from that which human parents use?
  • Tetsuro Matsuzawa found that, when it comes to completing the photographic memory task, chimpanzees are superior to humans. What explanation does he give for this finding? Can the performance of the chimpanzees be explained by conditioning?
  • Think about the location where the two researchers conduct their studies. What are the advantages and disadvantages of researching animals in their natural habitat compared to captivity?
  • Compare the reasons why Alex Thornton and Tetsuro Matsuzawa study animals. Which of them is interested in animal behaviour not just for its own sake, but also as a way of learning about human capacities?