Map Phrenologists Smu Ethical Issues That Shoul
Our textbook emphasizes the specialized research methods for studying the brain and the importance of recognizing that psychology is empirical (grounded in data – in observations that can be verified by others). Many of the tools for studying the brain are relatively new. Remember that Psychology evolves in a socio-historical context. For thousands of years, people believed that evil spirits caused abnormal behaviour, so those spirits had to be released by drilling holes in the person’s skull. We can understand how this “treatment” was a product of its time and of people’s beliefs about the inner workings of the spirit and the brain. Phrenology is a more recent attempt to understand the workings of the brain. Phrenology flourished in the early part of the 20th century, as phrenologists “read” the bumps and depressions in people’s skulls. Armed with a “map,” phrenologists interpreted people’s personalities.
A more recent method to treat mental illness is transorbital lobotomy. According to Shutts (1982), about 40,000 people underwent lobotomies in the 1940s and 1950s. It seems like a long time ago (in some ways, it is), and it reflects a lack of understanding of basic brain functioning. You probably know more about the brain than many of the people who performed lobotomies; they did so by inserting a thin rod between the person’s eyeball and the eye socket bone until it reached the prefrontal area of the brain. This procedure was often not conducted in hospitals but rather in people’s homes. Walter Freeman became famous for carrying his equipment in his car, referred to as the “lobotomobile.” Used first on intractable schizophrenics, the operation soon spread and was used on a variety of patients. Lobotomies did seem to calm some schizophrenics, but the results were often disappointing. People who had a lobotomy often displayed apathy, an inability to plan and take initiative, memory disorders, distractability, generally blunted emotions, a loss of facial expression, and a loss of social inhibitions. Take a look at this: https://www.bbc.com/news/magazine-15629160
It is important that any intervention be grounded in empirical scientific research. Suppose an experienced neurosurgeon proposed “I have a lot of experience with brain surgery. I think that lobotomies could help people with severe mental disorders that resist treatment. I can do it”.
Task 1: What are some research ethics issues that should be considered? Put yourself in the shoes of the desperate person, wanting relief. What should you know to make an informed decision? Do the benefits outweigh the risks, in your mind? Submit your response to these questions (4-5 sentences).