, Volume 8, Issue 2, pp 83–92 | Cite as

Knowledge, Experiences and Views of German University Students Toward Neuroenhancement: An Empirical-Ethical Analysis

  • Cynthia Forlini
  • Jan SchildmannEmail author
  • Patrik Roser
  • Radim Beranek
  • Jochen Vollmann
Original Paper


Across normative and empirical disciplines, considerable attention has been devoted to the prevalence and ethics of the non-medical use of prescription and illegal stimulants for neuroenhancement among students. A predominant assumption is that neuroenhancement is prevalent, in demand, and calls for appropriate policy action. In this paper, we present data on the prevalence, views and knowledge from a large sample of German students in three different universities (n = 1,026) and analyze the findings from a moral pragmatics perspective. The results of our study indicate that neuroenhancement is a well-known phenomenon among German students, but not prevalent. 2.2 % of our sample reported having used a prescription medication for neuroenhancement. Exams and competitive situations were predominant motivators of use. Students were unenthusiastic and critical about neuroenhancement in the academic context and disapproved of neuroenhancement for professionals. The majority of respondents agreed that neuroenhancing substances should be regulated by the state. These stances were based on strong beliefs in resisting peer pressure, avoiding the creation of injustice and valuing of hard work. From a moral pragmatics standpoint, these results challenge the assumption that policy on neuroenhancement is necessary in academic environments.


Neuroenhancement Empirical ethics Moral pragmatics 



Jan Schildmann, Patrik Roser and Radim Beranek are members of the Global Young Faculty II, an initiative of Stiftung Mercator in cooperation with the University Alliance Ruhr (UA Ruhr), coordinated by the Mercator Research Center Ruhr (MERCUR) in Essen. Cynthia Forlini conducted this work as part of an International Visiting Fellowship in Medical Ethics at the Institute for Medical Ethics and History of Medicine, Ruhr-University Bochum. We would like to thank Bettina Plum, Birte Dahmen and Antje Hütten for their support of data collection and management.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Cynthia Forlini
    • 1
  • Jan Schildmann
    • 2
    Email author
  • Patrik Roser
    • 3
  • Radim Beranek
    • 4
  • Jochen Vollmann
    • 2
  1. 1.The University of Queensland Centre for Clinical Research, Royal Brisbane and Women’s HospitalUniversity of QueenslandHerstonAustralia
  2. 2.Institute for Medical Ethics and History of MedicineRuhr University BochumBochumGermany
  3. 3.Department of Psychiatry, Psychotherapy and Preventive Medicine, LWL University HospitalRuhr University BochumBochumGermany
  4. 4.Faculty of Chemistry and BiochemistryRuhr University BochumBochumGermany

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