Ethical issues (human participants)


HideShow resource information
  • Created by: sadaf
  • Created on: 13-06-11 15:50
Preview of Ethical issues (human participants)

First 534 words of the document:
Discuss ethical issues in the use of human
participants in research in psychology
The British Psychological Society (BPS) are the body in the United Kingdom that have
decided what constitutes an ethical study and what does not, by publishing it's list of
ethical guidelines that they expect every psychologist in the U.K. to follow.
The first of these is Consent. This means that every participant should give their
agreement to take part in the study. The best form of consent is informed consent
where the research is explained to the participant and based on the full information
given to them, they agree to take part. The problem here is that this then influences
the participants behaviour during the study, which is not desired.
This is linked to the next ethical issue, which is to deceive the participants. This is
something that should not be done. However, many psychologists make a
benefit/harm judgement and if the benefit outweighs the possible harm then some
would say that the deceit is justified. An obvious example of where the participants
were deceived is in Milgram's study where that participants were told that the study
was about the effect of punishment on learning, when it was actually about how
obedient people were. It could also be argued that consent was not given, because of
the deception.
If participants are not given the option to give consent, and they are deceived into
thinking that one thing is actually another, then it could be argued that they are
unable to exercise their right to withdraw, which is the next ethical issue. This is
often the case in many field studies. For example, Piliavin's field study into helping
behaviour. Here unwitting participants on a New York subway were witnesses to an
'emergency' of someone falling down. None of the witnesses to this had given their
consent, they had been deceived into thinking that the emergency they were
witnessing was real, and in the circumstances, many found it very difficult to
withdraw from the situation. This is a common fault with many field studies, and can
cause some distress to the witnesses.
This leads me on to the next issue, which is that the participants have a right to be
protected from harm. It is clear in Milgram's study that many were harmed by the
procedure that they endured in the study. Many showed obvious sign of distress,
they sweated, bit their lip, and in one variation three participants had seizures, one
so serious that the study had to be halted. In Milgram's defence he did not expect
the levels of obedience that he obtained.
One way that psychologists try to rectify any damage done to participants is to have
a de-brief. This is recommended by the BPS ethical guidelines, even if no harm is
done to the participants. Milgram's de-brief is a shining example of what a de-brief

Other pages in this set

Page 2

Preview of page 2

Here's a taster:

The participants were reunited with Mr. Wallace who assured them
that he had not been harmed, they were interviewed and assured that their
behaviour was perfectly normal, they were sent follow-up questionnaires, and one
psychiatrist examined a group and found that no lasting harm had come of them. In
fact the participants themselves said that they had learned something useful about
themselves and that more studies of this type should be carried out.…read more


No comments have yet been made

Similar Psychology resources:

See all Psychology resources »See all resources »