Using relevant examples explain why ethical issues are important in research with human participants in psychology (15m) Rachael Guthrie – 532 words. When using human participants in research there are many ethical issues which need to be considered and dealt with appropriately in order to protect the participants from any physical or psychological harm. BPS guidelines have been produced in an attempt to protect any human participants in psychological research and to prevent disturbing research similar to that which has taken place in the past occurring.
One ethical issue which must be considered is deception. It is unfair to deceive participants as they are agreeing to something that they believe is true when in fact, the aim of the research differs from their beliefs. Deception may lead to confusion and distress in certain research and participants may be disappointed or humiliated when they find out that they have been lied too.
One study that involved deception is Asch’s research into conformity, his participants were unaware of the fact that the other people taking part in the study were confederates that were deliberately giving the wrong answer, the participant felt confused when the others were giving an obviously incorrect answer. However, Asch would not have been able to carry out his research in this way if the participant knew about the procedure of the study as they then would have known what Asch was expecting and why the others were giving the wrong answer.
There are many studies in the past which have involved deception or harm to participants. The researcher has responsibility for their participants and should ensure that they are not at risk of any physical or psychological harm. Zimbardo’s study was one of the most unethical and had to be ended after just 6 days after the participants became extremely distressed after taking on the role of prisoners or prison guards, although he did ensure that consent was gained prior to the study taking place, ensuring that the participants knew what they were taking part in.
Milgram’s study also involved psychological harm and deception, the participants believed that they were giving the other participant an electric shock, this led to them becoming extremely distressed, some even has seizures. However, 87% of Milgram’s participants were pleased to have taken part and suffered no lasting damage, instead, some learned something of value about themselves. A study into personal space invasions in the lavatory by Middlemist, Matter and Knowles breached many ethical guidelines as their articipants were deceived without giving any consent or the right to withdraw. They suffered embarrassment and violation as their privacy had been invaded without them knowing. When considering ethics in psychology there are three things that committees will take into account; what rules have been broken, the benefits of the study and if there was another way to do it. For example, Zimbardo could’ve carried out his study in a ‘real life’ prison.
If the benefits of research are greater than the distress caused to an individual participant, e. g. the effects are minor then the research is more likely to be passed by an ethics committee. Whilst ethical guidelines exist and researchers are required to be aware of them, they are not legally binding and so this creates a loophole through which some less ethical studies can still fall through.
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