A Critique of Animal Psychology Research at the University of California at Berkeley

Brandon P. Reines, D.V.M.


Never before has criticism of psychological experiments on animals been so vocal. Of course, many clinical psychologists have likely questioned the value of such animal studies since the dawn of experimental psychology during the Darwinian revolution. Not until the rise of the animal rights movement in the 1970's and 80's, however, have the shortcomings of much psychological research on animals been so widely publicized. In particular, the scientific criticisms of the animal models of human psychopathology have been summarized in two recent monographs (Reines, 1982; Stephens, 1986). In addition, the drawbacks of psychological research on animals in general have been reviewed in chapters of three books on animal welfare (Drewett and Kani, 1981; Rowan, 1984; Gianelli, 1985). As yet, however, there has been little criticism of the arguments used by experimental psychologists to justify public funding of their animal experiments.

This critique analyzes the investigators' justifications for psychological experiments on animals at the University of California at Berkeley. Most of the psychological research conducted at UC Berkeley in recent years might be categorized as "physiological psychology," which ostensibly aims to discover the physiological basis of human mental experience. Within the University of California at Berkeley, eight of the nine principal psychological researchers are or were recently conducting animal experiments in the field of physiological psychology (except for P. Dolhinow's research on mother-infant separation). The nine investigators of interest are: Dr. Frank A. Beach, Dr. Stephen Breedlove, Dr. Russel L. DeValois, Dr. Phyllis Dolhinow, Dr. Walter J. Freeman, Dr. Stephen E. Glickman, Dr. Mark R. Rosenzweig, Dr. Seth Roberts, and Dr. Irving Zucker. Except for Drs. Freeman and Dolhinow, all of the researchers work within the Department of Psychology. The author solicited written rationales directly from the above nine scientists. Drs. Doihinow, Freeman, and Zucker kindly responded to the author's query. If a scientist proved unwilling to supply a justification for his/her animal experimentation, every effort was made to obtain a suitable rationale from the investigator's published literature. Such a published rationale was found for Dr. Rosenzweig. Dr. Beach was kind enough to reply but did not explicitly justify receiving public funds for his animal experiments. Dr. Breedlove's rationale was found in a memorandum to the Committee for the Protection of Animal Subjects at UC Berkeley. Dr. DeValois also failed to respond but a critique of his research is included for completeness. The text is arranged by the six research specialties represented by the Berkeley investigators. A brief critique of each investigator's justification for using public funds to support their research follows:


1. Hormones and Behaviour Research

2. Color Perception Research

3. Mother-Infant Separation Research

4. Memory Research

5. Mental Imagery Research

6. Biorhythm Research

Discussion and Conclusion