Competence: When a researcher has the qualifications and ability to carry out a study safely and ethically, or asking someone else about the study. You would hope the researcher had knowledge in the specific area of psychology being studied.
Evaluative Comments: Ethical commitees now check for the competence of researcher carrying out the study, so the guidelines must be adhered to. Milgram showed competence in his research by researching beforehand what he though his results would be.
Consent: Participants have to agree to take part in the research, as should be informed as far as possible into research details so they can give informed consent. Children and other special cases, may need informed consent from parents or guardians.
Evaluative Comments: Often consent is not informed consent as telling participants all about the study would mean results would not be useful as there are issues with validity. If Milgram said the shocks were not real, participants would not have obeys in the same way.
Debrief: After the study a debrief is carried out to explain everything to the participants. This can cover the problem with obtaining uninformed consent. The debrief should include explanation of the findings.
Evaluative Comments: A debrief is difficult in a naturalistic observation if people are in a public place and are not told about the study. They may not be contactable. Otherwise however debriefing should not be difficult. Milgram gave a thorough debrief to his participants.
Deceit: This is related to uninformed consent because often a study requires deception. Uninvolved people can be asked if they would mind being involved and from their responses the agreement on uninformed participants could be assumed. There are ways to ensure ethical practice occurs even when there is deceit.
Evaluative Comments: A debrief helps with deceit as participants can be informed about what has happened and if they do not agree to their results being used they can withdraw at this point. Prior consent can contribute to ethical practice. Milgram deceived his participants in more than one way (selecting of the teacher/pupil role, use of electric shocks).
Right To Withdraw
Right to Withdraw: Participants should be given the right to withdraw from the research at any time. The participants must be told about the right to withdraw and be reminded of it throughout the study. They must also be given the right to withdraw at the end of research.
Evaluative Comments: It is not usually hard to give participants the right to withdraw, although in natural observations do not allow the right to withdraw as participants are not aware of their involvement in the study. Right to withdraw results is given in the debrief and is usually possible. In Milgram participants were told they must carry on, but in reality could have withdrawn if the really wanted to.
Evaluating Ethical Issues: Humans
Advantages of Ethical Guidelines:
- Participants must feel safe.
- Society's moral standards must be maintained.
- Vulnerable participants need protection.
Disadvantages of Ethical Guidelines:
- Not being able to do covert research of private behaviour. You cannot gain informed consent or give the right to withdraw, as the participant is unaware of the research.
- Not being able to study violent or aggressive behaviour experimentally as it is not ethical to induce violent behaviour- as it may not occur otherwise in real life.
- Not being able to report on all aspects of a case study. Important information from a case study may be with-held to ensure confidentiality.