Psychology And Biological Experiments

Feb 7 22:58 2007 Kate Gardens Print This Article

Psychology as the science which studies thoughts, behavior, soul and emotions is closely connected with other sciences.

Biology takes the primary place in this connection as physiological aspects are closely linked to many psychological concepts. In the 1920s McDougall,Guest Posting a Harvard psychologist, began a series of experiments designed to determine if information and abilities learned and acquired by parents could be inherited and passed to future generations through the genes. In his experiments McDougall placed white rats, one at a time, in a tank of water from which they could only escape by swimming to one of two gangways and climbing up. One gangway was brightly lit and the other was not. They received an electric shock if they escaped by the illuminated gangway. McDougall recorded the number of trials required to learn that they could always escape from the unlit gangway.

The first generation of rats received an average of over 160 shocks each before learning to avoid the illuminated gangway. Each successive generation learned quicker than the previous one until, after 30 generations of rats were making an average of only 20 errors each. McDougall concluded this to be evidence for the inheritance of acquired characteristics, but his conclusion was extremely controversial and flew in the face of the orthodox theory of inheritance based on Mendelian genetics because the control animals also learned the behavior without ever being exposed to it! Some of the leading biologists of the time subjected his experiments to critical scrutiny, but they were unable to find any significant procedural flaws in his experiment. When they suggested that McDougall must have been breeding from the more intelligent rats in each generation he designed a new experiment in which he selected only the most stupid rats in each generation as the parents of the next. Thus, by our conventional view of genetics, subsequent generations should have learned more and more slowly. However, the reverse occurred. After 22 generations, the rats were learning 10 times faster than the first generation of stupid ancestors.

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Kate Gardens
Kate Gardens

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