Discuss ethical considerations related to research studies at the cognitive level of analysis

Custom Student Mr. Teacher ENG 1001-04 16 April 2016

Discuss ethical considerations related to research studies at the cognitive level of analysis

Discuss ethical considerations related to research studies at the cognitive level of analysis

There are plenty of ethical considerations connected to research studies at the SCLOA, for example the right to withdraw, deception, knowledgeable agreement and excessive stress or harm.

For example, Festinger’s “When Prophecy Fails” observation of a doomsday cult has ethical invasions of deception as well as knowledgeable agreement. Festinger and his group of researchers invade a doomsday cult that thought that the world would come to an end on December 21st and aimed to see how they would react when it wouldn’t end. By pretending to be one of them, Festinger violated the ethical thought of asking for their authorization and consequently, since it was a secret observation, he also cheated them. They were incredibly upset when he said who he really was; to be an undercover researcher. It is most likely that Festinger would not have been able to earn a full understanding of the cult’s behaviour and how it played into the social recognise theory if he had not cheated them, as he was observing them on their normal day without any effects influencing their behaviour.

However, he cheated on ethics. This is a matter with other observations at this level of analysis as being secret that tricks them and is unethical if they aren’t in a public place, during undisguised influences their natural behaviour that is precisely what you are trying to study. Milgram’s study on people’s willingness to do authority also is an invasion of ethics in terms of cheating, but also with excessive stress or harm and even the right to withdraw. Members that participated were asked to ask a number of questions to someone they were only able to hear and to give a number of electric shocks every time the other person, who was normally only a tape recording, would give an answer to the question incorrectly. The voltage of the shock would be increased per incorrect answer. Although the members that participated delivering the shocks weren’t able to actually hurt someone, they still became more and more stressed every time the person on the recording would sound more hurt or even stop saying something.

The whole point of this experiment was to be able to see how far someone would go when carry out authority so some people, when forced by a calm researcher, would deliver shocks that were marked as lethal. When the experiment was over, the people who had done it all the way to the strongest shocks were questioned and told that they hadn’t actually harmed anyone. Nonetheless, they were still tricked and were stressed by the cries of pain or silence that showed that the person was dead. Moreover, the long-term effects of this study on the members that participated, is that they know that they are capable of hurting someone or even killing them, which may traumatize them. Nonetheless, the experiment was controlled, and so was artificial and lacked ecological acceptance. Also, it was done on other people who had sound like they had mental health problems, so this experiment can be easily generalized and used for the SCLOA as it studies how others influence one’s behaviour.

As mentioned before, however, Milgram had some problems with the right to pull back, which Zimbardo’s “Prison Study” also had. Milgram made it able for people to leave if they became uncomfortable; nonetheless, his aim for this study made him to become more uncertain and made them continuously to stay. This is not the case with Zimbardo’s study. In his study, he randomly chose mentally healthy members that participated to the role of a prison guard or a prisoner to search the role of dispositional and situational factors in behaviour. Nonetheless, over the course of this study, Zimbardo and his members that participated became so involved in their roles that they were made to that not only the prisoners were humiliated, physically punished and felt violated and in danger, at some moments they were forcedly undressed and given a piece of clothing that covered little of their private parts; however, they weren’t able to be let out of the study.

Only one member that participated with the role of a prisoner was released because of a severe state, but the others members that participated who screamed and cried to be released, couldn’t be released. On top of the excessive stress and harm inflicted on the prisoners and  guards, who might have been traumatized by their actions during this study, none of them could leave the experiment. The researcher was not Zimbardo himself, he became absorbed in his own role as the prison officer, and consequently he is biased when analysing his own study. Overall, this was an unethical study, even though; fortunately the members that participated were questioned and offered psychological counselling because of the long-term effects.

It is obvious that deception, knowledgeable agreement, the right to withdraw and undue excessive stress or harm are ethical considerations at the SCLOA. It is frequently hard to keep away of such ethical violations at this level, though, as in order to study someones behaviour and how we are influenced by others in their natural state, the existence of a researcher may affect this behaviour. Therefore, questioning is important in sensitive ethically risky studies such as Festinger’s, Milgram’s and Zimbardo’s studies. However, when studying someone’s behaviour, a researcher must stay a secret, for example, not becoming affected by the group, and keep paying attention to the rights of the members that participate; being denied the right to withdraw has no excuse.


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  • University/College: University of Chicago

  • Type of paper: Thesis/Dissertation Chapter

  • Date: 16 April 2016

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