There that they obtain. Informed consent is
There are many issues facedby psychologists when conducting research, a large area being ethical issues. Ethicalissues are when “researchers putparticipants in a situation where they might be at risk of harm as a result oftheir participation. Harm can be defined as both physical and psychological.” (Trochim, 2006). Ethical issues are importantwhen researching any human beings, and especially with children. Many studieshave been conducted in the past which would be deemed as highly unethicaltoday, however these are some of the most famous studies conducted bypsychologists, for example Zimbardo (1971), and Milgram (1963).
There have beenmany changes made since then in order to solve these issues and allow psychologicalresearch to be monitored so that they are ethical. One extremely important ethical issue is protection from harm.Researchers must ensure that there is complete protection for their participants,from any kind of psychological or physical harm during and after the study theyconduct. Psychological harm could potentially be hard to identify inparticipants as even they themselves may be unaware that they’ve been affectedin this way. This is why it is important that researchers demonstrate theirbest efforts to prevent this kind of harm (as well as physical harm) fromoccurring. Confidentiality is another important issue when conducting research. Thismeans that results must be completely anonymous, so noone can identify the participants from the results.
This therefore ensures thesafety of the participant and their personal details. Having the right to withdraw is another ethicalissue. Researchers should make sure that participants are fully aware that theyare free to leave the study atany time and withdraw their results at any time if they wish to do so. Thisis necessary as some participants could feel pressured into carrying on withtaking part in a study, and it helps to stop participants from feeling uncomfortablewith the results that they obtain. Informed consent is another issue whereby the participantmust give their full permission for the researchers to use their results, afterbeing told the true aims of the study.
If this has not been given byparticipants, then their results are not allowed to be used and involved in theanalysis. Debriefingis an important issue which must always take place after astudy is over. It is done to make sure that the participants have not beenharmed in any way during or after the study, and to ensure that the researchershave fully informed consent. It allows participants to remove their resultsfrom the study if they wish to do so, and gives them the chance to ask anyquestions they may have in order to fully understand the nature of it. Deceptionis a huge issue which is still often used in studies today.
This is whenparticipants are misled in any way and can involve the use of confederates todo so. Some studies still require this in order to prevent demandcharacteristics. This must be done to ensure that there are no confoundingvariables impacting on the results and conclusions of the study, and to ensurethat the results are valid. However, debriefing in these kinds of studies isextremely important as this is the only time participants are made fully awareof what they study is actually about, which is the only time they are able togive fully informed consent. One example of previous research that has been done whichfaces ethical issues is Zimbardo (1971).
This study involved 24 maleparticipants who were assigned to either the ‘guard’ condition or the ‘prisoner’condition in a simulated prison at Stanford University. Zimbardo wanted to findout whether brutality in American prisons was due to dispositional orsituational factors. The study found that the participants quickly conformed tothe assigned roles – the guards were being brutal to the prisoners even thoughbefore the study they showed no sadistic qualities, suggesting this was due tothe prison environment.
There were many ethical issues clearly involved in this study. There was arguablynot fully informedconsent from participants as is what unknown what could potentially happen inthe study, and the participants who were ‘prisoners’ did not actually givetheir permission to being ‘arrested’ at their homes. There was also a huge breach of protection from harm, as someparticipants were experiencing humiliationand distress. For example, a ‘prisoner’ was released after 36 hours because theyhad a screaming and crying fit and showed high levels of anger and distress.
Also, ‘prisoners’ were made to strip down. Milgram’s 1963 study was another ethicallyquestionable study which involved 40 male participants who were assigned to a ‘teacher’role, and a confederate who was assigned to a ‘learner’ role. The ‘teacher’ wasrequired to read out some word pairs and if the ‘learner’ got any wrong whenreciting them, a shock had to be administered by the ‘teacher’. Theparticipants had been told that they were going to participate in research onmemory and learning, and therefore consented to take part based on thisknowledge, so fully informed consent was not gained by Milgram as theparticipants did not know the true nature of the study (that it was actually astudy into obedience). However, arguably informed consent was gained after theparticipants were debriefed. The participants were necessarily deceived inMilgram’s defence, because if the participants knew the aim of the study beforeor during, there would have been demand characteristics which would have messedup the results of the study.
Participants’ right to withdraw was arguablybreached due to prods that the ‘experimenter’ gave, including “please continue”,which could have caused participants to carry on even though they didn’t reallywish to do so. Also, many participants showed distress, for example threeparticipants had uncontrollable seizures. Both theBritish Psychological Society (BPS) and the American Psychological Association(APA) give ethical guidelines which researchers must adhere to for theirresearch to be accepted as ethical. The BPS Code of ethics and conduct was published in 2009. Itincludes standards of respect (which ensures researchers value the dignity andworth of all participants), competence (which ensures researchers are aware oftheir capabilities and limits of their training, knowledge, and experience), responsibility(which ensures researchers understand the responsibilities they have toparticipants, the public, and psychology), and integrity (which ensuresresearchers are honest, accurate, and fair). The APA Ethical Standards ofPsychologists was published in 1953 which was the first ethical code theycreated and was over 170 pages long.
It presented many ethical dilemmas that psychologistswrote to the committee about, although, the makers of this first code allowedit to be a continual work in progress. The APA adopted the ethical principles of psychologists and code of conduct in 2002, then amended it in 2010, andagain in 2016. Now, the 2017 edition is only 16 pages long. The code gives ethical standards information including how to resolve ethicalissues, competence, human relations, privacy and confidentiality, advertising,record keeping, education and training, research and publications, assessment,and therapy.
Since this introduction of ethicalguidelines, there have been improvements in the ethics of studies. One example ofthis is a partial replication of Milgram (1963) conducted by Burger (2009).This study replicated Milgram in as many ways as it ethically could, however itmade several changes in the procedure of the study. In Milgram’s study, shocks went up to 450V somany participants became distressed towards the end, which was unethical. Burgernoted that in Variation 5 of Milgram’s experiment, allthe participants who dropped out did so by 150V and the participants who continuedafter 150V went on to the end. So, 150V was named the “point of no return”. Therefore, inBurger’s study, if participants went to continue past 150V, the experimentwould be stopped and it was assumed that they would carry on to 450V,preventing them from experiencing high levels of distress.
Also in Burger’sstudy, participants were told at least three times that they couldwithdraw from the study at any time. However, this was not done in Milgram’s study.The participants were therefore made more aware of their right to withdraw inthis study than in Milgram’s. Also in Burger’s replication, the participantonly received a 15V sample shock as opposed to the 45V sample shock given toparticipants in Milgram’s study (these were done to give a taste of what theshocks felt like for the learner), therefore meaning that there was lessphysical harm done to the participants in Burger’s study as the shock theyreceived was lower. To conclude, we can see that there have been manyissues in past with ethics. However, due to these issues being addressed andsolutions being created such as the ethical codes, research is now not allowedto be conducted if it breaks the guidelines that these codes set out.Deception, however, is still necessary in much research conducted bypsychologists as it is the only way to reduce demand characteristics in certaincircumstances, but it is only acceptable so long as participants are fullydebriefed and consenting after data has been gathered.