Ethical Issues and Ways of dealing with them.

  • Created by: Chriss0
  • Created on: 25-09-22 16:46

Lack of Valid Consent

Issue: Participants should be given full information about the true aims and procedures of a study before agreeing to take part. A signed consent form is often evidence of valid consent

  • Briefing: This prevents the issue. Informing participants fully about the aims and procedures of a study BEFORE they participate.
  • Debriefing: This resolves the issue. Informing the participants fully about the aims and procedures of the study AFTER they participate. Also involves checking the psychological wellbeing and the right to withdraw.
  • Presumptive Consent: This prevents the issue. This is an alternative to valid consent and it not gained from the participants themselves. People who are considered to be similar to the actual participants who will take part in the study are approached. They are given the full correct aims and procedures of the study and then is asked if they would take part. If they agree, then it is presumed that the original participants would also agree and consent to the study
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Lack of a right to withdraw.

Issue: Participants should be given the right to leave the study at any time up to the point of publication of the report. Participants can also request that their data is returned to them or is destroyed. If not it is unethical.

  • Informing participants of their right to withdraw prevents the issue: Participants should be fully aware of their right to withdraw at any time. Procedures which may result in participants feeling their right to withdraw is compromised should be avoided. e.g. Milgram
  • Debriefing:  Informing the participants fully about the aims and procedures of a study after they participate. (Also invloves checking their psychological wellbeing and their right to withdraw)
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Psychological Harm

Issue: Participants should not be harmed physcially or psychologically as a result of taking part in a study. This includes bodily harm such as bruising,cuts and burns and psychological harm such as fear and embarresment. 

  • Ethical Committees: This prevents the issue. A  group who meet to discuss the ethical costs/scientific benefits of propsed research studies. Committees can ensue that research which could in result harm participants are not approved
  • Ethical Guidelines: The BPS set out ethical codes of practice and use punishement to enforce the guidelines. Psychologists who break these guidelines can be banned from practising for a period of time
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Confidentiality Issues

Issue: Participants should not have to give personally identifiable information in a study and if they do this, it should not be published in the article. This is particulary an issue in case studies. 

  • Use of Pseudonyms: Give your participants a false name to protect their actual identity. They should only be reffered to by that name.
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Issue: Participants are misled about the true aims and procedures of a study.

There are two types of deception:

Deliberate Deception - Participants are told lies

Deception by omission - Key details about the study are not told to participants. 

  • Debriefing: This resolves the issue by informing participants fully about the aims and procedures of the study AFTER they particiapte. 
  • Ethical Communities: A group who meet to discuss the ethical costs/scientific benefits of proposed research studies. Committees can ensure that research which could result in harm to participants is not approved. 
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Issues with vulnerable groups including children.

Vunerable groups include:

  • Children under the age of 18
  • Patients
  • People invloved with the criminal justice system
  • Those involved in some illegal activities such as prostitution and drug abuse.
  • Parental Consent for those under the age of 18: This prevents the issue by gaining consent of the childs parents/gaurdians before they study begin. The child may or may not be informed about study aims.
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Risk to the participants values, beliefs, relation

Issue: Very broad ethical issue.

  • Careful Planning: The researcher must carefully consider any issues which could occur during the study
  • Pilot Study: A small scale, practice study can be used to identify any possile ethical issues the researcher could not predict.

Both of these prevent the issue

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Ethical Issues with Animals


The 3 R's are reduce, replace and refine.

  • Reduce - researches should aim to reduce the overall number of animals used in research to a minimum.
  • Replace - Researches should aim to use alternatives to animals whenever possible. e.g. computer simulations
  • Refine - Researchers should use procedures which are carefully planned to minimise animal suffering. e.g. use painkillers when studies involve physical harm to animals.
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