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Mind-Body Problem: Belmont Principles and Future

Application of the Belmont Principles

The topic of our research is the mind-body relationship, and the main question is, “to what extent do psychological factors, and physiological factors influence a person’s character, reactions, and behavior?” The research will be based on a literature review, and thus we will work with no human subjects directly. Thus, in this paper, we will describe how the Belmont Principles (“The Belmont report,” 1979) can be applied to a hypothetical study on a related topic.

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It is stated that religious faith can activate certain parts of the brain (Han et al., 2008) and reduce pain (Wiech et al., 2008). Therefore, religious belief (a psychological phenomenon) can influence a person’s brain activity (a physiological phenomenon). Thus, the topic of the influence of religion on the brain can be related to the mind-body problem in general and our research question.

In our hypothetical study, we will use fMRI to compare atheists’ brain activity and religious people (Christians) while praying. We will ask the participants to count while their brain will be scanned, then we will ask them to say a prayer, and while they will be praying, we will also scan their brain.

We will recruit participants via an advertisement on the university’s website, thus exercising respect by allowing people to come on their own volition. While collecting data (performing the MRI scanning), we will apply respect by providing the participants with all the required information and quitting. The fact that fMRI is safe allows for complying with the principle of benevolence. While managing, organizing, and analyzing the data, and reporting findings, we will only identify the subjects by their belief status (atheist/believer), keeping their identity secret, therefore complying with the principle of benevolence as well (no informational harm to the participants). Before reporting the findings, we will check if the participants are still willing to be a part of the study and withdraw the results of the unwillingness from the statistics, thus adhering to the principle of respect for persons.

Future Directions in Psychology

In his article, Bray (2010) discusses today’s existence of psychology within various institutions in society. He notes that there are numerous problems related to the future of psychology, including the lack of public recognition and, consequently, funding, the dearth of proper educational programs and scientific training, etc. At the same time, he stresses that psychology today offers immense contributions to society. The author concludes that it is important to introduce more interdisciplinarity into psychology, expanding the focus of psychological practice and training psychology students with other specialists – neuroscientists, computer scientists, etc. – while maintaining the identity of psychologists.

On the other hand, Schönbrodt and Asendorpf (2011) introduce a virtual social environment used in psychological studies. Computer games can be an effective tool to conduct psychological research, providing “a unique combination of both mundane realism and experimental control” (Schönbrodt & Asendorpf, 2011, p. 7). The authors also supply an example of implementing the “Simoland” virtual social environment and discussing the relationship between real-world and virtual-world behavior.

We agree with Bray (2010) that it should be useful for psychology to collaborate with other disciplines more; such collaboration can offer much to psychology, introducing additional knowledge, research methods, and other opportunities. Schönbrodt and Asendorpf’s (2011) study is an example of a productive collaboration between computer scientists and psychologists. Another example of successful collaboration is provided by Slater et al. (2006), who experimented similar to Milgram’s famous obedience to authority experiments to find out whether people would feel anxious while administering “electrical shocks” to a virtual female who “wouldn’t learn” (while being aware of her virtuality). We also agree with Bray (2010) that, considering the current globalization and the increased need for interaction among different cultures, psychology should play an important role in today’s world; we believe that the existing collaboration between psychology and humanities should also be expanded.

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Bray, J. H. (2010). The future of psychology practice and science. American Psychologist, 65(5), 355-369. Web.

Han, S., Mao, L., Gu, X., Zhu, Y., Ge, J., & Ma, Y. (2008). Neural consequences of religious belief on self-referential processing. Social Neuroscience, 3(1), 1-15. Web.

Schönbrodt, F. D., & Asendorpf, J. B. (2011). Virtual social environments as a tool for psychological assessment: Dynamics of interaction with a virtual spouse. Psychological Assessment, 23(1), 7-17. Web.

Slater, M., Antley, A., Davison, A., Swapp, D., Guger, C., Barker, C.,…Sanchez-Vives, M. V. (2006). A virtual reprise of the Stanley Milgram obedience experiments. PLoS One, 1(1), e39. Web.

The Belmont report. (1979). Web.

Wiech, K., Farias, M., Kahane, G., Shackel, N., Tiede, W., & Tracey, I. (2008). An fMRI study measuring analgesia enhanced by religion as a belief system. Pain, 139(2), 467-476. Web.

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