Ethical Issues and ways of dealing with them

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Informed Consent

  • Participants need to know what they`re getting into before starting something
  • Make participants aware of the aims of the research, procedures, their rights (including right to withdraw at any time) and what data will be used for
  • Participants should be able to make an informed decision as to whether they should take part without feeling coerced / obliged
  • Researcher POV - could make study meaningless as participants behaviour won`t be `natural` if they know the aim of the study.

Dealing with Informed Consent

  • Participants to be issued with a form detailing all relevant information that may affect a decision to be involved. if the participant agrees, the form is signed (the parent signs for under 16s)
  • Three ways to gain consent - presumptive consent (they ask a group of people considered `similar` to the participant rather than the participant directly), prior general consent (agree to a range of experiments inc one involving deception), retrospective consent (asked to consent after the experiment during a full debrief)
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  • deliberately misleading / witholding information from participants at any stage of the investigation - links to informed consent (if someone hasn`t received adequate information they can`t claim to give informed consent)
  • deception can be acceptableif it doesn`t cause undue distress (i.e. people using a placebo in an energy drink study)

Dealing with Deception

  • full debrief needed at the end of the investigation where they are told about all aspects of the investigation as well as the aims of the study
  • should be told what data will be used for and given chance to withold it (especially if retrospective consent is involved)
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Protection from Harm

  • participants shouldn`t be placed at any more risk than they would in their daily lives (physical and psychological)
  • psychological includes being made to feel inadequate and embarassed or being placed under undue stress / pressure
  • important part = participants being reminded they can withdraw at any time

Dealing with protection from harm:

  • need a full debrief at the end of the investigation 
  • should be reassured about behaviour during investigation and offered counselling in extreme cases
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Privacy and Confidentiality

  • participants can control information about themselves (right to privacy)
  • if privacy is invaded any information should remain confidential (under Data Protection Act)
  • right to privacy extends to the area where the experiment occurred (institution / geographical location) being kept anonymous

Dealing with confidentiality:

  • personal details must be protected, but its most common to maintain complete anonymity - use numbers / letters for participants when writing up the investigation and use initials for case studies (HM for example)
  • standard practise to remind participants that information will be protected during briefing and debriefing
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BPS cose of conduct

researchers have a professional duty to follow guidelines set out by the BPS when conducting their research. While they won`t go to prison if they are caught breaking this code, they may lose thier job.

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