Ethical Implications and Social Sensitivity

Ethical Implications and Social Sensitivity

Siebar and Stanley (1988)

Defined socially sensitivity as research that could lead to negative consequences for either the people or the institutions, particularly directly in the research for or the group of people the research is about.

1) Implications of the research: What will happen in society due to our change in understanding? Could this lead to discrimination?

2) Use of research: Will the results be used in a public policy to justify laws that harm the people studied or wider society?

3) Validity of research: Are the findings a result of sound methodology?

4) Awareness of implications to participants and institutions: How could your research impact on the lives of your participants, an organisation or a wider community after the research?

1 of 8

Ethical Implications and Social Sensitivity

 Examples

Research was distressing to the participants and leads to negative consequences - A study on how couples deal with relationship arguments and cheating involving in-depth interviews about personal experiences leads to the breakdown of relationships.

Negative coverage in the media that could have led to lower profits, bad reputation or embarrassment - A business loses trade due to negative coverage over the emotional support it offers, the workers suffer with depression, as a result of this the business has to lay off staff.

Self-fulfilling prophecy, the participants take the findings as facts and then acts in a way that lives up to that result - Nurses that work in the hospital live up to the self-fulfilling prophecy of having poor hygiene and bad bedside manner due to the results of a study.

Community develops a negative attitude due to report and changes their behaviour in a negative way - A study shows that there has been a small increase in violent crimes towards older people, these older people become reluctant to volunteer their time in the community.

2 of 8

Ethical Implications and Social Sensitivity

Dealing with Ethical Issues

Briefing and debriefing: The participants/guardians should be told as much as possible about the study before, and the full aims should be told after. If the study is stressful, counselling should be offered.

Publication: Care should be taken to maintain confidentiality when publishing results.

3 of 8

Ethical Implications and Social Sensitivity

 Accepting Ethical Issues

Ethics Committees - The final decision as to carry out ethically questionable research is not made by the researcher, but by a panel who judge the value of the research.

Cost Benefit Analysis - Judging the potential costs and benefits of the researcher to society.

BPS (British Psychological Society) - A representative body for psychology and psychologists in the UK, they are responsible for the promotion of excellence and ethical practice in the science, education and application of the discipline.

Code of Conduct - Gives a range of guidelines for psychologists, but focuses on the respect of privacy, confidentiality and the wellbeing of participants/communities/practitioners.

4 of 8

Ethical Implications and Social Sensitivity

 Evaluations

Avoiding Sensitive Issues - While harm should be considered, excessive fear the researchers have about harming or offending could lead to certain groups and topics not being researched as they study less controversial topics. This may ultimately lead to worse lives for the minority groups or people struggling with 'sensitive issues'. For example if correct child rearing methods is seen as a sensitive area of research that could demonstrate the benefits on child development of a particular style may not be conducted.

Reputation of Psychology - Focus on ethical conduct, such as acting in accordance with BPS guidelines, has improved the image of psychology as a scientific field of study, a reputation that was damaged by researchers such as Harlow, Milgram and Zimbardo. The public is often only aware of the extreme nature of these studies and not the positive implications of their work. As scientific funding is often from public bodies, it may be beneficial to avoid controversial topics.

5 of 8

Ethical Implications and Social Sensitivity

Application

Psychopathology/Definitions of Abnormality - The statistical infrequency definition of abnormality creates a point decided by psychologists that someone is defined as abnormal. The decision of where this point is can have significant implications such as if that person requires support. Or in some cases of American States, an individual with an IQ of under 70 avoids the death penalty.

Milgram/Obedience to Authority - The extreme nature of Milgram's obedience research and the lack of the ability to withdraw is thought to have caused harm to his participants, and would have been unlikely to be carried out today. However, when interviewed after taking part in the study, only a small number regretted taking part and the research has changed our perceptive on social influence.

6 of 8

Ethical Implications and Social Sensitivity

 Application

Psychopathology/Definitions of Abnormality - The statistical infrequency definition of abnormality creates a point decided by psychologists that someone is defined as abnormal. The decision of where this point is can have significant implications such as if that person requires support. Or in some cases of American States, an individual with an IQ of under 70 avoids the death penalty.

Milgram/Obedience to Authority - The extreme nature of Milgram's obedience research and the lack of the ability to withdraw is thought to have caused harm to his participants, and would have been unlikely to be carried out today. However, when interviewed after taking part in the study, only a small number regretted taking part and the research has changed our perceptive on social influence.

7 of 8

Ethical Implications and Social Sensitivity

 Application

Bowlby/Maternal Deprivation - Much of the attachment research, in particular Bowlby, places significant pressure on the mothers attachment to their child, while minimising the role of the father. This leads to emotional blackmail, in which they sacrifice their own career, making the father feel biologically incapable.

Evolutionary Explanation of Sexual Selection - There is a biological double standard by which male promiscuity and female chastity has a biological justification as an effective way to pass on genes.

8 of 8

Comments

No comments have yet been made

Similar Psychology resources:

See all Psychology resources »See all Issues and Debates resources »