Ethics-Do No Harm
One of the goals of ethical research is to ensure that participants have the freedom of choice regarding whether they would like to participate in the research. In an ideal scenario, every individual has the chance to learn about the research and to decide whether to take part in it or not, without considering other factors. In the first scenario, the researcher may have violated one of the principles of ethical behavior (informed consent) as he failed to inform the participants that the research was already taking place. The American Psychological Association (2022) claims that when getting informed consent, the participants should be informed of the purpose of the research, the procedures, and anticipated duration, their right to take part in the research and withdraw from it after it has begun, any probable consequences of withdrawing or declining, limits of confidentiality, possible factors that might be expected to influence their willingness to take part in the research, incentives for taking part in the research and the person to be contacted for questions regarding the research and the participants’ rights. In this case, the participants were not informed of when the research began, which took away some of their rights, such as their right to withdraw participation.
According to Stangor (2010), benefits to society are obtained when the researchers make an in-depth explanation of the research to the participants as well as the expected results of the research once it has ended. The participants need to be able to ask questions and find out more about what the research is expected to test and how the data will be used. By failing to inform the participants that the experiment was already taking place, the researcher violated the principle of informed consent.
Additionally, in the first experiment, the participants were not informed that the experiment had already begun, which can be considered a form of deception. Deception occurs when the research participants are not wholly informed regarding the nature of the research before they take part in it. In this case, the deception was more passive as the researcher just chose to withhold information about when the experiment began and started recording their conversations and actions. Some researchers believe that deception can be necessary for research as it allows the participants to behave or act naturally. The only problem is that trust and cooperation between the researcher and the participants might be broken when deception is used, which can tamper with the results.
An alternative research design that might remedy the issues of deception and an infringement of the freedom of choice would be to use naturalistic observation. Naturalistic observation is a design in which the subjects are observed in their natural settings and tallies or notes of the observed behaviors are recorded. In doing this, the researcher would eliminate the need to acquire informed consent from the participants and would also not need to use deception to get them to participate in the research truthfully. Naturalistic observation design would require the researcher to observe the participants in their natural environment and record their initial interactions with other people. The researcher would sit in a place where they could see all the participants without being noticed and take note of their conversations and actions.
American Psychological Association. (2021). Ethical Principles of Psychologists and Code of Conduct. Retrieved from https://www.apa.org/ethics/code/index
Stangor, C. (2010). Research Methods for the Behavioral Sciences. (4th ed). Wadsworth Cengage Learning.
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Researchers in psychology (including students) must follow the American Psychological Association’s (APA’s) Ethical Principles of Psychologists and Code of Conduct (2010) to protect the rights and welfare of research participants and ensure no harm will come to them. Furthermore, an Institutional Review Board (IRB) committee must review and approve all research studies involving humans and/or animals before they begin. It is the IRB committee’s responsibility to evaluate proposed research studies per the APA’s ethical principles and codes of conduct as well as to assess the possible benefits and risks of the studies.
An effective way to develop your research skills is to analyze sample studies. For this Assignment, you will review brief research descriptions, identify and address ethical issues, and apply an alternative research methodology.
Review again Chapter 1 from the course text.
Read Chapter 3 from the course text.
Read the American Psychological Association’s Ethical Principles of Psychologists and Code of Conduct: Including 2010 Amendments.
The Assignment (1–2 pages):
Select one of the following four research studies:
A researcher was studying initial interactions between people. While two students were supposedly waiting for an experiment to begin, the researcher covertly videotaped their actions and conversations. Afterward, the researcher told the students about the video recording and allowed them to have the tape erased.
A researcher worked for a time on the production line of a large manufacturing plant. His status as a researcher was unknown to his coworkers. It was not until he was about to leave that he revealed his purpose and identity to his coworkers.
To study what types of people are most likely to give money to a stranger, people on city streets were asked for money by someone who said he had just lost his wallet. No one was ever told that he or she was part of a research project.
To study the effects of alcohol on decision-making, a graduate student interviewed college students after they had left a campus bar. With a portable breathalyzer, he registered their blood alcohol levels. Although some of them were found to be intoxicated beyond the legal state limits, and many of them were going to be driving home, he did not inform them of their blood alcohol levels.
Complete the following for the study you selected (rather than reproduce the scenario in your response, indicate your study selection with a number):
Explain the ethical issues and how the study may have violated principles of ethical behavior.
Propose an alternative research design from the assigned Learning Resources that could remedy the identified issues, (e.g., naturalistic observation, simulation study), and explain in detail how the new design would be set up and carried out.
Reminder: Do not copy or retype the example study scenario into your Assignment.
Note: Support the responses within your Assignment with evidence from the assigned Learning Resources. Provide a reference list of resources you used for this Assignment.
Stangor, C. (2015). Research methods for the behavioral sciences (5th ed.). Stamford, CT: Cengage Learning.
Chapter 1, “Introduction to Research”
Chapter 3, “Ethics in Research”
Plous, S. (Ed.). (2013). Online social psychology studies. Retrieved from
American Psychological Association. (2010). Introduction and applicability. In American Psychological Association (Ed.), Ethical principles of psychologists and code of conduct: Including 2010 amendments. Retrieved from http://www.apa.org/ethics/code/index.aspx
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