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Ethics In Psychology

The idea of ethics extends beyond the ethical implications involved when conducting research. To considerations involved at every stage of the research process. According to Sieber and Stanley, There are four key aspects of the research process where ethical implications should be considered.


Sieber and Stanley 4 Key stages

*The Research Question
*Conduct Of Research and Treatment of Participants
*The Institutional Context
*Interpretations and Applications of Findings


Explain The Research Question

Simply asking a research question (such as ‘are there racial differences in IQ?’ or ‘is homosexual inherited?’) may be damaging to members of a particular racial group or sexual orientation because it appears to add scientific credibility to the prevailing prejudice.


Explain Conduct of research and treatment of participants

The main concern is the confidentiality of the information collected (eg if a participant confesses to a crime should confidentiality be maintained?)


Explain The Institutional Context

Research may be funded and managed by private institutions who may misuse the data or may misunderstand the data that is produced. The media may obtain reports of such research and misreport the findings.


Explain Interpretations and application of findings

Research findings may be used for purposes other than origially intended. For example, the development of IQ tests by psychologists was subsequently used to demonstrate the inferiority of certain groups of people and was also used identify the ‘feeble-minded’ who could then be sterillised


Define Social Sensitive Research

Refers to ‘studies in which there are potentially social consequences or implications, either directly for the participants in research of the class of individuals represented by the research’


Ethical Issues in a Psychological Study

Milgram (1963) was interested in researching how far people would go in obeying an instruction if it involved harming another person. Stanley Milgram was interested in how easily ordinary people could be influenced into committing atrocities, for example, Germans in WWII. At the time, the Milgram experiment ethics seemed reasonable, but by the stricter controls in modern psychology, this experiment would not be allowed today.


Milgrams Study Predictions

Although a team of psychiatrists predicted that only one-tenth of 1 percent of the participants in the Milgram obedience research would fully obey the experimenters commands and administer the highest shock level on the generator, to Milgram’s astonishment, 65% of the participants fully obeyed the experimenter’s commands completely, despite the convincing cried of agony from the learner. In addition, all participants who reached 450 volts obeyed the experimenters command to continue by using the 450-volts switch until the experiment ended. Furthermore, all subjects obeyed up until 300 volts.


Deception in Milgrams Study

Ethical issues such as Deception were used where the participants actually believed they were shocking a real person and were unaware the learner was a confederate of Milgram's. However, Milgram argued, “illusion is used when necessary in order to set the stage for the revelation of certain difficult-to-get-at-truths”. Milgram also interviewed participants afterwards to find out the effect of the deception. Apparently, 83.7% said that they were “glad to be in the experiment,”. The implications of this deception was necessary to gain a true result of human behaviour.


Protection from Harm in Milgrams study

Participants where not protected from harm as Participants were exposed to extremely stressful situations that may have the potential to cause psychological harm. Many of the participants were visibly distressed. In his defence, Milgram argued that these effects were only short-term. Milgram did debrief the participants fully after the experiment and followed up after a period of time to ensure that they came to no harm. In fact, the majority of the participants (83.7%) said that they were pleased that they had participated. The implications of this issue were necessary because of the nature of this experiment, people under Authoritarian figures would experience this level of stress, the Germans under Nazi control certainly did so this allows us to get a reliable and valid answer to Milgram’s question.


Harlows Monkey Ethics

Harlows Monkey is also seen as ethically wrong and in modern days would almost certainly not be recreated again. However the experiment was necessary as Harlow’s experiments offered irrefutable proof that love is vital for normal childhood development. Additional experiments by Harlow revealed the long-term devastation caused by deprivation, leading to profound psychological and emotional distress and even death.


Social Sensitive Research Explaination

Socially Sensitive Research refers to ‘studies in which there are portenital social consequences or implications, either directly for the participants in research of the class of individuals represented by the research’


Social Sensitive Research Examples

Socially sensitive research can lead to issues of discrimination and therefore some psychologists would argue against conducting this form of research. For example, research examining racial differences in IQ has been used to justify new (and often unwarranted) forms of social control.


Social Sensitive Research Solution

The issues with conducting socially sensitive research (like those highlighted above), are why some psychologists simply suggest that we should avoid conducting such research, and steer clear of sensitive topics, including: race, gender and sexuality. Some psychologists believe that such research could have a negative impact for the participants. However, this would probably leave researchers with nothing but trivial questions to investigate.
A more acceptable solution might be for psychologists to engage more actively with policy makers after the publication of their findings to help reduce the likelihood that data is misused and to ensure that evidence-based research is used in socially sensitive ways.


Ethical Issues with Social Sensitive Research

Valid Methodology
Informed Consent
Equitable Treatment
Scientific Freedom
Ownership of data
Risk/Benefit Ratio