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  • Created on: 12-01-13 17:47

Dealing with Ethical Issues


  • consider the cost-benefit analysis to ensure that the value of the research outweighs any possible distress or inconvenience to the ppt. Ethical comittees are set up to make this decision to avoid bias by the researcher from the desire to carry out the research. 

FOR EXAMPLE- in Milgram and Zimbardo's case, the cost of the harm to the participants outweighs the benefits of the research gained from the findings.

HOWEVER, the cost-benefit decisions could be flawed because subjective judgements are involved and some costs may not be always apparent until after the research has been carried out. 

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Dealing with Ethical Issues

ONE ETHICAL ISSUE IN HUMAN RESEARCH IS DECEPTION- BPS guidelines state that ppts should have informed consent. However, often, this is not possible as the aim of the study needs to remain hidden to ensure natural behaviour and valid results.

A WAY TO DEAL WITH THIS WOULD BE PRESUMPTIVE CONSENT- researcher asks members of the general public if they would agree to take part in the study. If they do, it can be presumed the real ppts will feel the same way.

EXAMPLE- MILGRAM'S study of obedience, the ppts needed to believe that the shocks were real. He asked a group of 110 students, psychiatrists and other adults how people would behave in his obedience study- 65% thought 150 volts would be the limit.

ZIMBARDO- was aware of Milgram's research and all the ethical issues raised. So he got prior general consent- asking the ppts general questions before they begin.  ASSUMED THAT BECAUSE THE PPTS AGREED TO TAKE PART, THEY HAD CONSENTED TO THE WHOLE PROCEDURE.

However, in both experiments, the researchers could not have known how the ppts would behave but they were criticised for the deception.

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Dealing with Ethical Issues


MILGRAM- showed the ppt Mr Wallace (shook hands) and that he had not been harmed at all and explained the procedure fully and gave the oppurtunity for the data to be withdrawn. Milgram interviewed ppts after the experiment and found that over 80% of them were glad to have taken part in the experiment. He then offered counselling to the ppts to ensure they left in the same state they came in. 

ZIMBARDO- extensive group and individual debreifing sessions were held and all the ppts returned post-experimental questionnaires several weeks then several months later then at yearly intervals.

SOMETIMES consent cannot be given because the ppt is not responsible of mind and may not understand what they are agreeing too. (E.G. with elderly mental health ppts or learning difficulties and children, consent must be gained by a responsible adult). 

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Dealing with Ethical Issues

ANOTHER ETHICAL ISSUE IS POP DURING OR AFTER RESEARCH. The BPS states that the ppt must be kept free from psychological or pysiological harm as much as is possible. This is often difficult as the researcher cannot know what the effects of the study are until the ppt has already taken part. 

This can be overcome by giving the ppt the right to withdraw at any time they felt uncomfortable:

MILGRAM- did not allow his ppts to excercise the right this right until they had been pressured by four prompts and this may have added to the distress that they showed. However, after the experiment he did ask if they wanted to withdraw results.

ZIMBARDO- stopped the experiment after only 6 days because the ppts started showing extreme signs of distress as well as taking on their roles of prisoner and guard too well. 

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Dealing with Ethical Issues

ANOTHER WAY OF DEALING IS THE USE OF ETHICAL COMMITTEES-an ethical committee which considers all research proposals from the perspective of the rights and dignity of the ppt ensuring researcher bias is avoided.

ZIMBARDO- gained approval from the psychology department  at stanford university from the university committee of human experimentation before the study began. Zimbardo ended the experiment prematurely BECAUSE He learned through videotapes that the guards were escalating their abuse of prisoners in the middle of the night when they thought no researchers were watching. ALSO, Christine Maslach - went to conduct interviews with the guardsand prisoners. Out of over 50 outsiders who had seen the prison, she was the only one to question it's morality.

CONCLUSION- There are certainly different views on morality and ethical issues in research. Particularly, the ABSOLUTE AND RELATIVE DILEMMA. The absolute view commonly believes that something is either just right of wrong whereas the relativists view reflects the idea that all morals are dependent on context. However, there can be difficulties with both the absolute (studies are commonly prohibited) and the relativist approach (most people will bend the rules but a line still has to be drawn somewhere so it cannot be used to allow deception or break confedentiality). 

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