Discuss Some Of The Ethical Problems Faced By Psychologists When Involved In Psychological Investigations.

1520 words - 6 pages

Watson and Raynor (1920) conducted what is considered to be one of the most ethically questionable studies in the history of psychological research. The infamous 'Little Albert' study was conducted in order to see whether the conditioning of a subject could induce phobias.Other ethically questionable studies include Milgram (1963) obedience studies, Hofling et al (1966) obedience studies, Aronson and Osherow (1980) classroom experiment.Ethics distinguish between the 'good' and the 'bad' in human conduct. Or "that which is deemed acceptable in human behaviour in pursuit of certain aims or goals" (British Psychological Society guidelines 1978).Obviously one would think that psychologists should focus on the 'good', however it seems that concern has been growing throughout the years that this is not always the case.In the UK the British Psychological Society (1985, 1990) have a code of conduct for psychologists to guide them in their research. The idea being 'to enhance human dignity'. The council of the society have a series of principles which supplement this code of conduct (BPS 1985). Violation of them could form the basis of disciplinary action (Psychologist 1990).Psychologists face numerous ethical problems when involved in psychological investigations. These include consent, deception, debriefing, withdrawal from the investigation, confidentiality, and the protection of participants, we will look at consent first.Consent from participants is absolutely essential. It is generally though that with informed consent a participant is fully aware of what they are getting themselves into. Information should only be held from the participants if it is absolutely necessary i.e. your research cannot be carried out otherwise. Unfortunately gaining consent isn't always straightforward, for example some potential participants are unable to consent i.e. children, adults with impairments, and animals. If this is the case then the appropriate consent should be sought out elsewhere. Appropriate other sources of consent include parents, family members, local authorities etc.In the past some psychologists have studied animals instead of humans in order to bypass ethical issues such as consent. It was seen as acceptable to use animals for research which would not be allowed otherwise. However this attitude is now changing, it is now considered much more appropriate to carry out ethological observation on animals.Another problem with consent occurs with longitudinal studies where consent may be required regularly throughout the study. The only time when informed consent is not necessary is when you are conducting observations of public behaviour, but even so this should still be checked.The subject of consent leads nicely into deception. Where ever possible deception should be avoided. However deception is a major problem in psychological research. Menges (1973) examined over 1000 studies and found that only 3% had fully consent (A Level psychology 1993 p49). If...

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