Scientific Benefit Vs Ethical Costs

Scientific Benefit Vs Ethical Costs

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  • Created on: 16-06-12 15:57
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Scientific Benefit Vs Ethical Costs
a) What is meant by the term scientific benefit? (3m)
The degree to which scientific finding has a beneficial impact on human behaviour. Calculated
using a cost benefit analyse. (Example GAS)
a) What is meant by the term Ethical costs? (3m)
The degree of potential harm to humans and animals linked to the study or application of the
finding from a study. (Example Milgram, Zimbardo)
b) Discuss the balance of scientific benefit versus ethical costs in psychological research.
(22m)
One scientific benefit of psychological research is the findings of Langer and Rodin. For example,
they found that giving people responsibility affected their happiness and their health. However a
disadvantage, is that the study was criticised as we already knew that are happiness is influenced
by the amount of control.
This therefore brings into question if these scientific benefits are worth the ethical cost posed to
the participants. For example the group who had less control about their life were more likely to
die. On the other hand, it could be argued that Langer and Rodin were not aiming to make
participants more likely to die but to see if happiness of the residents can be improved.
Another benefit of psychological research is the findings of Zimbardo's prison experiment. For
example Zimbardo's prison experiment showed that people behaviour changed in terms of
situational factors, in other words conforming to their social roles. During the 6 day experiment
guards often woke the prisoners up in the middle of the night to clean their cells. Some guards
even volunteered to work extra shifts. However one disadvantage is that there is little evidence
that the prison experiment change the way American Prisons work even thou this is what
Zimbardo aimed to do.
This therefore brings into question if this scientific benefit is worth the ethical cost posed to the
participants. For example Prisoners were often physically beaten and psychologically damaged
by the guards. Five of the prisoner had to be released early because of extreme depression
before the study ending after 6 days, even thou the experiment was suppose to continue for
two weeks.
Another benefit of psychological research is the findings of Milgram's obedience study. For
example it showed that participants would obey orders even thou original interviews with
psychology students suggested only 3% would actually obey the orders. However one piece of
research that criticise Milgram research was Mandel (1998) who found a group of policemen
during the Holocaust who behaved quite differently. Mandel suggested that in real life people
obey for other reasons such as Holocaust the prejudice against Jews.
This therefore brings into question if this scientific benefit is worth the ethical cost posed to the
participants. For example there are many criticisms about the ethical issue such as the
psychological harm of believing that they are harming another human being, or the lack of the
right to withdraw. Participants were told that they could withdraw however the experimenter
would say the experiment requires that you continue, as well as 3 other phases, this did cause

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On the other hand, it could be argued that Milgram did not know that the
study would cause high levels of distress would be caused, as psychology students only believed
1 ­ 3 % of participants would administer obey the orders given by the experimenter.
In conclusion Ethical guidelines tend to be based on cost ­ benefit approach where the scientific
benefit is justification of the ethical costs practically when the research promises the greatest
good for the greatest numbers.…read more

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