A Mismatch Between Micro-motives and Macro-behavior

  • Jan LauwereynsEmail author


Viewed at the microscopic level of each individual laboratory, it may appear that researchers work in accordance with the three R’s, choosing the appropriate animal model, aiming to get the smallest sample size needed for any experiment, and continuing to improve the techniques and knowledge extraction. However, turning to the macroscopic level of the entire field, we find mismatches between the individual intentions and overall outcomes. The chapter offers an analysis inspired by the groundbreaking work of Schelling on emergent patterns of macro-behavior as a function of micro-motives. The challenge will be to shift from agency at the microscopic level to agency at the macroscopic level. Such a shift would enable researchers to address, among other things, the key scientific problem of sample size.


Animal ethics Rational choice Individual perspective Aggregate outcome Sample size 


  1. Baggini, J. (2005/2006). The Pig That Wants to Be Eaten. 100 Experiments for the Armchair Philosopher. New York: A Plume Book.Google Scholar
  2. Bennett, A. J., & Ringach, D. L. (2016). Animal research in neuroscience: A duty to engage. Neuron, 92, 653–657.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Button, K. S., & Munafò, M. R. (2014). Incentivising reproducible research. Cortex, 51, 107–108.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Button, K. S., Ioannidis, J. P. A., Mokrysz, C., Nosek, B. A., Flint, J., Robinson, E. S. J., et al. (2013a). Power failure: Why small sample size undermines the reliability of neuroscience. Nature Reviews Neuroscience, 14, 365–376.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Button, K. S., Ioannidis, J. P. A., Mokrysz, C., Nosek, B. A., Flint, J., Robinson, E. S. J., et al. (2013b). Confidence and precision increase with high statistical power. Nature Reviews Neuroscience, 14, 585–586.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Cohen, J. (1962). The statistical power of abnormal-social psychological research: A review. Journal of Abnormal and Social Psychology, 65, 145–153.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Editorial. (1999). Science and terrorism in Europe. Nature Neuroscience, 2, 99–100.Google Scholar
  8. Editorial. (2015). Inhumane treatment of nonhuman primate researchers. Nature Neuroscience, 18, 787.Google Scholar
  9. Fehr, E., & Fischbacher, U. (2003). The nature of human altruism. Nature, 425, 785–791.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Frey, R. G. (2011). Utilitarianism and animals. In T. L. Beauchamp & R. G. Frey (Eds.), The Oxford Handbook of Animal Ethics (pp. 172–197). New York: Oxford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Friston, K. (2012). Ten ironic rules for non-statistical reviewers. NeuroImage, 61, 1300–1310.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Hardin, G. (1968). The tragedy of the commons. Science, 162, 1244–1248.Google Scholar
  13. Hauser, O. P., Rand, D. G., Peysakhovich, A., & Nowak, M. A. (2014). Cooperating with the future. Nature, 511, 220–223.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Holder, T. (2014). Standing up for science: The antivivisection movement and how to stand up to it. EMBO Reports, 15(6), 625–630.Google Scholar
  15. Hubel, D. H. (2009). The way biomedical research is organized has dramatically changed over the past half-century: Are the changes for the better? Neuron, 64, 161–163.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Kuhn, S. (2017). Prisoner’s dilemma. In E. N. Zalta (Ed.), The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Spring 2017 Edition). Available at:
  17. Newport, F., & Himelfarb, I. (2013, May 20). In U.S., record-high say gay, lesbian relations morally OK. GALLUP News. Available at:
  18. Olsson, I. A. S., Franco, N. H., Weary, D. M., & Sandøe, P. (2012). The 3Rs principle: Mind the ethical gap! ALTEX Proceedings, 1/12, Proceedings of WC8, 29, 333–336. Google Scholar
  19. Quinlan, P. T. (2013). Misuse of power: In defence of small-scale science. Nature Reviews Neuroscience, 14, 585.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Roelfsema, P. R., & Treue, S. (2014). Basic neuroscience research with nonhuman primates: A small but indispensable component of biomedical research. Neuron, 82, 1200–1204.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Rollin, B. E. (2017). The ethics of animal research: Theory and practice. In L. Kalof (Ed.), The Oxford Handbook of Animal Studies (pp. 345–363). New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  22. Russell, W. M. S., & Burch, R. L. (1959/1992). The Principles of Humane Experimental Technique. Wheathampstead: Universities Federation for Animal Welfare. Available at: ALTWEB
  23. Schelling, T. C. (1978/2006). Micromotives and Macrobehavior. Fels Lectures on Public Policy Analysis. New York: W. W. Norton.Google Scholar
  24. Sterling, T. D. (1959). Publication decisions and their possible effects on inferences drawn from tests of significance—Or vice versa. Journal of the American Statistical Association, 54, 30–34.Google Scholar
  25. Tannenbaum, J., & Bennett, B. J. (2015). Russell and Burch’s 3Rs then and now: The need for clarity in definition and purpose. Journal of the American Association for Laboratory Animal Science, 54, 120–132.PubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  26. Understanding Animal Research. (2017, September 6). Numbers of animals. Available at:
  27. United States Department of Agriculture. (2017, June 27). Annual report animal usage by fiscal year. Animal Plant and Health Inspection Service. Available at:

Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Kyushu UniversityFukuokaJapan

Personalised recommendations