Ethical Issues

Valid Consent

This is where participants are given (most of the time comprehensive and detailed) information concerning  the nature and purpose of the research in which theywill be taking part so they are able to make an informed decision about whether or not to parcticipate.

Researcher: Revealing true aims of study. This may cause participants to guess and change the way they behave thus invalidating the purpose. Also may not know true benefits/risks of the study and thus full consent is not able to be given.

Participant: Should be told so that they are able to make an impormed desicion about whether or not they wish to participante. Even if the researchers have obtained vald consent, this does not mean that participants truly understand whats theyare doing (Epstein and Lasagna 1969).

A way to deal with this issue is to gain presumtive consent (asking a group similar tothe participants whether or not they would give consent) or to get the participants to sign an official document showing they fully understand.

1 of 4


This is when a participant is not told the true aims of a study thus cannot give valid consent.

Researcher: participants may alter their behavour to cause the study to be meaningless if they knew about the true aims of the study. When withholding some information about the study is reasonably acceptable, providing incorrect information is less (not at all) acceptable. They may also be seen as untruthworthy after this.

Participants: deception is absolutely unethical and should definitely not happen without good cause - especially because deception can lead to a lack of valid consent. Thus they may not know what theyve got themselves in for and so become rather distressed by the experience and not wish to participate in any other research study that may follow. 

Ways to deal with this issue include: the need for deception being approved byan ethics comintee (who weigh up the benefits of the study with the costs to the participants, debriefing the participants is also an effective way of informing participants of the true aims of the study.

2 of 4

Risk of harm

This is the risk that participants may face negative physical and psychological effects beyond their normal experiences.

Researcher :  when studying the more important psychological questions there may be a need for a degree of this. It may also be difficult to predict theoutcomes psychologically for some studies and thus difficult to predict protection

Participants: nothing hormful should be bestowed upon participants under any circumstances. it is only considered acceptable if the participants simply face the participant would be likely to experience in an ordinary day - they should come out of the study the same way they went in (unless they gave valid consent to the possibly harmful nature of the study)

A way of dealing with this would be to avoid any risks greater than those experienced in everyday life and if harm is suspected, discontinue the study.

3 of 4


This concerns the communication of personal information from one person to anohter and the trust that the information will be protected.

Researcher: the protection of confidentiality may be proven to be difficult as they usually wish to publish their findings. They may also guarantee anomyty however this may not fully protect the individuals' identity.

Participant: The Data Protection Act makes confidentiality a legal right. So it is only acceptable that personal data about the participant is not held if it is made in a form that identifies the participant - researchers cannot identify the participant in their records. 

A way to deal with this issue is to not record the names of any of the participants (however it is sometimes possible for people to work out who the participants were using the information provided about.

4 of 4


No comments have yet been made

Similar Psychology resources:

See all Psychology resources »See all Research methods and techniques resources »