There details. Having the right to withdraw is

There are many issues faced
by psychologists when conducting research, a large area being ethical issues. Ethical
issues are when “researchers put
participants in a situation where they might be at risk of harm as a result of
their participation. Harm can be defined as both physical and psychological.” (Trochim, 2006). Ethical issues are important
when researching any human beings, and especially with children. Many studies
have been conducted in the past which would be deemed as highly unethical
today, however these are some of the most famous studies conducted by
psychologists, for example Zimbardo (1971), and Milgram (1963). There have been
many changes made since then in order to solve these issues and allow psychological
research to be monitored so that they are ethical.


One extremely important ethical issue is protection from harm.

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Researchers must ensure that there is complete protection for their participants,
from any kind of psychological or physical harm during and after the study they
conduct. Psychological harm could potentially be hard to identify in
participants as even they themselves may be unaware that they’ve been affected
in this way. This is why it is important that researchers demonstrate their
best efforts to prevent this kind of harm (as well as physical harm) from


Confidentiality is another important issue when conducting research. This
means that results must be completely anonymous, so no
one can identify the participants from the results. This therefore ensures the
safety of the participant and their personal details.


Having the right to withdraw is another ethical
issue. Researchers should make sure that participants are fully aware that they
are free to leave the study at
any time and withdraw their results at any time if they wish to do so. This
is necessary as some participants could feel pressured into carrying on with
taking part in a study, and it helps to stop participants from feeling uncomfortable
with the results that they obtain.


Informed consent is another issue whereby the participant
must give their full permission for the researchers to use their results, after
being told the true aims of the study. If this has not been given by
participants, then their results are not allowed to be used and involved in the


is an important issue which must always take place after a
study is over. It is done to make sure that the participants have not been
harmed in any way during or after the study, and to ensure that the researchers
have fully informed consent. It allows participants to remove their results
from the study if they wish to do so, and gives them the chance to ask any
questions they may have in order to fully understand the nature of it.


is a huge issue which is still often used in studies today. This is when
participants are misled in any way and can involve the use of confederates to
do so. Some studies still require this in order to prevent demand
characteristics. This must be done to ensure that there are no confounding
variables impacting on the results and conclusions of the study, and to ensure
that the results are valid. However, debriefing in these kinds of studies is
extremely important as this is the only time participants are made fully aware
of what they study is actually about, which is the only time they are able to
give fully informed consent.


One example of previous research that has been done which
faces ethical issues is Zimbardo (1971). This study involved 24 male
participants who were assigned to either the ‘guard’ condition or the ‘prisoner’
condition in a simulated prison at Stanford University. Zimbardo wanted to find
out whether brutality in American prisons was due to dispositional or
situational factors. The study found that the participants quickly conformed to
the assigned roles – the guards were being brutal to the prisoners even though
before the study they showed no sadistic qualities, suggesting this was due to
the prison environment.

There were many ethical issues clearly involved in this study. There was arguably
not fully informed
consent from participants as is what unknown what could potentially happen in
the study, and the participants who were ‘prisoners’ did not actually give
their permission to being ‘arrested’ at their homes. There was also a huge breach of protection from harm, as some
participants were experiencing humiliation
and distress. For example, a ‘prisoner’ was released after 36 hours because they
had a screaming and crying fit and showed high levels of anger and distress.

Also, ‘prisoners’ were made to strip down.


Milgram’s 1963 study was another ethically
questionable study which involved 40 male participants who were assigned to a ‘teacher’
role, and a confederate who was assigned to a ‘learner’ role. The ‘teacher’ was
required to read out some word pairs and if the ‘learner’ got any wrong when
reciting them, a shock had to be administered by the ‘teacher’. The
participants had been told that they were going to participate in research on
memory and learning, and therefore consented to take part based on this
knowledge, so fully informed consent was not gained by Milgram as the
participants did not know the true nature of the study (that it was actually a
study into obedience). However, arguably informed consent was gained after the
participants were debriefed. The participants were necessarily deceived in
Milgram’s defence, because if the participants knew the aim of the study before
or during, there would have been demand characteristics which would have messed
up the results of the study. Participants’ right to withdraw was arguably
breached due to prods that the ‘experimenter’ gave, including “please continue”,
which could have caused participants to carry on even though they didn’t really
wish to do so. Also, many participants showed distress, for example three
participants had uncontrollable seizures.


Both the
British Psychological Society (BPS) and the American Psychological Association
(APA) give ethical guidelines which researchers must adhere to for their
research to be accepted as ethical. The BPS Code of ethics and conduct was published in 2009. It
includes standards of respect (which ensures researchers value the dignity and
worth of all participants), competence (which ensures researchers are aware of
their capabilities and limits of their training, knowledge, and experience), responsibility
(which ensures researchers understand the responsibilities they have to
participants, the public, and psychology), and integrity (which ensures
researchers are honest, accurate, and fair). The APA Ethical Standards of
Psychologists was published in 1953 which was the first ethical code they
created and was over 170 pages long. It presented many ethical dilemmas that psychologists
wrote to the committee about, although, the makers of this first code allowed
it to be a continual work in progress. The APA adopted the ethical principles of psychologists and code of conduct in 2002, then amended it in 2010, and
again in 2016. Now, the 2017 edition is only 16 pages long. The code gives ethical standards information including how to resolve ethical
issues, competence, human relations, privacy and confidentiality, advertising,
record keeping, education and training, research and publications, assessment,
and therapy.


Since this introduction of ethical
guidelines, there have been improvements in the ethics of studies. One example of
this is a partial replication of Milgram (1963) conducted by Burger (2009).

This study replicated Milgram in as many ways as it ethically could, however it
made several changes in the procedure of the study. In Milgram’s study, shocks went up to 450V so
many participants became distressed towards the end, which was unethical. Burger
noted that in Variation 5 of Milgram’s experiment, all
the participants who dropped out did so by 150V and the participants who continued
after 150V went on to the end. So, 150V was named the “point of no return”. Therefore, in
Burger’s study, if participants went to continue past 150V, the experiment
would be stopped and it was assumed that they would carry on to 450V,
preventing them from experiencing high levels of distress. Also in Burger’s
study, participants were told at least three times that they could
withdraw from the study at any time. However, this was not done in Milgram’s study.

The participants were therefore made more aware of their right to withdraw in
this study than in Milgram’s. Also in Burger’s replication, the participant
only received a 15V sample shock as opposed to the 45V sample shock given to
participants in Milgram’s study (these were done to give a taste of what the
shocks felt like for the learner), therefore meaning that there was less
physical harm done to the participants in Burger’s study as the shock they
received was lower.


To conclude, we can see that there have been many
issues in past with ethics. However, due to these issues being addressed and
solutions being created such as the ethical codes, research is now not allowed
to be conducted if it breaks the guidelines that these codes set out.

Deception, however, is still necessary in much research conducted by
psychologists as it is the only way to reduce demand characteristics in certain
circumstances, but it is only acceptable so long as participants are fully
debriefed and consenting after data has been gathered.

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