The APA ethical guidelines help to ensure that all psychological research maintains the integrity that it does not do harm or conflicts with the majority of the human populations moral ethical codes. However, in some situations the APA ethical guidelines must be viewed as just that: guidelines. If a study has the potential to benefit humanity as a whole and does not result in the permanent or irreparable harm to a human being then some guidelines must be permitted to be stretched or even broken in the interest of human advancement and scientific progression. After all the goal and responsibility of a psychologist is to enhance our understanding of human behavior as well as to find ways to use this information to better society and humanity as a whole. In a circumstance that has the potential to achieve this goal, violation of the APA ethical guidelines is acceptable on the condition that the research maintains the integrity of not inflicting irreparable damage or harm to the subjects being used. This includes psychological harm, physical harm, or social humiliation to any human being regardless of age, size, race, gender, disability or other determining characteristic.
The APA ethical guidelines consist of informed consent, deception, debriefing, withdrawal, confidentiality, and protection from harm. Informed consent means, to inform the subjects of the purpose of the study in advance in order for the subject to be able to give their consent with knowledge of what they are consenting to. This reduces the potential of stress or any damages. However, there are cases where the experimenter does not reveal the entirety of the experiment nor the aim. For example, in Milgram’s study on obedience, the participants were informed that the levels of shock would be low. Later when the students were notified that the shock was actually high enough to kill people, the participants experienced anxiety and displayed a high tension stress response.
Informed consent most closely interrelates to the guideline of deception. Deception is possibly the most controversial and also the most important aspects of research in psychology. Deception occurs when the experimenter withholds information about the study or the true aim of the study. In psychological research, it is important to use the least amount of deception possible. In all cases the researcher must take careful consideration to the benefits of any deception. If deception is carried out the participant is likely to experience: a feeling of being uncomfortable, negative feelings towards the research, and suspicion of the research. However, sometimes deception is necessary for the researcher because if the participants understand the aim of the study they could act differently according to the aim of the study. For instance, in memory research the researcher can inform the aim of the study because the participants do not know what they will be asked to remember.
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