Dealing with human ethical issues


Debrief and presumptive consent

  • Debrief - the true aims of the study are told to the participants, giving them the opportunity to discuss any concerns they have and withdraw their data if they wish.
  • Deals wit deception, informed consent and right to withdraw. E.g. Milgram (1963) debriefed the participants after his study to test obedience as they were told it was an experiment about learning. He asked participants for their consent to publish their data and gave them the opportunity to withdraw their results if they wish.
  • However, debriefing doesnt turn back time -  particiaptns may still feel embarrassed about their results lowering their self esteem.
  • Presumptive consent - used to deal with informed consent and deception by asking a group of people, who are similar to the prospective articiapnts in a study whether they would agree to take part in the study. If this gorup of people consent to the proceduresm it is presumed that the real particiapnts would also agree. 
  • E.g. Milgram (1963) surveyed 14 yale university students before his study took place asking them how they would repsond if they were to take part. They all answered saying they would be 'happy' to be involved.
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Ethical committee and punishment

  • Every institution where research takes place has an ethical committee that must approve the study before it takes place - look at all of the ethical issues that could arise, how serious these are and how they can be dealt with.
  • They also weigh up the beifits fo the reserach against the ethical const. E.g. universities - psychology students must get their study approved before they are allowed to conduct it. 
  • However, cost-benifit judgements are flawed because some costs may not be apparent until after the study, raising more problems.
  • Punishment - if a psychologist behaves in an unethical manner, e.g. seriously hurting someone, in their experiment, then the BPS reviews the research and may decide to bar the person from practicing as a psychologist.
  • It is not a legal matter but it couls affect the reserachers livelihood.
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