There are some aspects of human behavior and mental processes that would not be ethical to study even if the participants freely consented to be studied. Ethical standards with regard to experimentation are subject to governmental regulations where federal funding is apparent (Kornblum, pg. 41). The text lists 5 key ethical issues revolving around human psychological research, including: Freedom from coercion, informed consent, limited deception, adequate debriefing, and confidentiality (Lahay, pg. 48). According to Lahay, requirements for institutions conducting research include approval from a board of outside scientists (pg. 48). I believe there are certain aspects of behavior and mental processes that should not be studied even with the participant’s approval. Study of subjects that were involved with committing crimes would be at the top of the list. For example, a study involving naturalistic observation of a kleptomaniac in action seems to me as unethical practice. While the observer is not taking part in the crime, he is not actively preventing it either. Furthermore, there may be a possibility that the said criminal’s need to steal is heightened due to the researcher’s requirement for consent.
Another example of studying behavior or mental processes that may present itself unethical might involve studying children. Even though parental consent may be given the child would not necessarily have to be informed of the study. An example might be a study where a badly behaved child is seated next to a compliant child to see if the behaviors change. Regardless of the effect on the badly behaved child, the compliant child could quite possibly experience higher levels of stress or anxiety. I think that good example of not ethical experiment would be “little Albert.” John Watson, the founder of behaviorism, conducted an influential early study of generalization. Watson and Rosaline Rayner examined the generalization of condition fear in an 11 month old boy Albert. Like many babies Albert was initially unafraid of a white rat. Then the Watson and Rayner paired the presentation of the rat with a loud, starting sound. Albert did show fear in response the loud noise.
Five days later, boy was exposed to other stimulus that resembled the rat in being white and furry. Albert’s fear response to other white, furry objects (rabbits, a dog). My opinion is that children should not be used in research. Another type of experiments, that I think are unethical, are Near-death experience – is the perception reported by a person who nearly died or who was clinically dead and revived. They are somewhat common, especially since the development of cardiac resuscitatation techniques. For example, in one, a woman accurately described a surgical instrument she had not seen previously, as well as conversation that occurred while she was clinically dead. I think that death or dieing is something that we as a human should not be involved in.