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There is a belief among psychologists that by carrying out an experiment we should be lead to understand ourselves better and to the enhancement of the human condition and promotion of human welfare. This can only be completed if the experiment is ethically right to all parties involved. Ethics in an experimental situation deals with the idea of morality, what would be considered morally right behaviour in sight of a specific scientific goal.
One idea which all psychologists agree on today which can be very rare, are the adopted codes of conduct for psychological research, these were created in 1985 by the British Psychological Society (BPS) in order to minimize the risk to human participants. There are six ethical principles which must be carried out in order for the codes of conduct to be complete. These include informed consent, where all subjects should be informed full information about the objectives of the research.
In particular subjects should be told information that could prevent or permit their choice to participate in the experiment. Subjects should have the right to withdraw; participants should be informed that they can leave the experiment at any stage regardless of any payment. Intentional deception should be avoided at all times; subjects shouldn’t be misleading deliberately without strong scientific justification. Researchers should offer full information about and explanation of research to participants so a full debriefing should be acknowledged.
Confidentiality should be up held by researchers for their subjects at all times due to legislation requirements, if any data is published this should not be identifiable unless agree previously. When carrying out observation research psychologists must also follow the code of conduct by respecting the privacy of psychological well being of the individuals studied. Finally BPS guidelines require researchers to give full protection to their participants that they should not experience any physical or mental harm greater than what is experienced in everyday life.
In order to keep to the last requirement giving full protection psychologists follow the code of not experimenting on minors which include any children under the age of 16. As the law of the BPS has only just been passed in 1985 there have been many previous studies carried out by psychologist which have made many break troughs in human behaviour, although there have also been some ethical problems toward subjects as the BPS laws had not been followed. One psychologist named Zimbardo carried put an experiment where the right to with drawl seemed almost impossible to subjects.
There mental state had been confused they had really taken on the roles of prisoner and guard and so did not want to leave, also they could not cope outside the prison it took over their lives. In this experiment there was no informed consent as the subjects weren’t informed on what exactly they had to do because this would have spoiled the experiment due to demand characteristics. There were problems with debriefing as after the experiment subjects were not left in the same state of mind that they had when they entered.
Above all of these ethic guidelines the biggest concern of all was that this experiment totally disregarded the protection of its participants, so much so that it wasn’t until mental breakdown of some subjects the experiment was counselled. The next psychologist I looked at was Milgram. His ethical problems against the BPS code included deception as the subjects were deliberately deceived into thinking his role of teacher was given randomly where as in fact both the subject and actor were given teacher roles, only the actor played the role of learner.
This study went against the right to withdraw as it was found that if the actor and teacher wanted to stop the experimenter would persuade the teacher to continue making teacher feel obliged to continues saying” we take full responsibility for your actions. ” The psychologist Paliavin did an experiment concerning observation here the code was broken as psychologist are expected to respects subjects privacy in this experiment psychologists are aware of subjects at all times as here psychologist is looking for reactions so no privacy of individuals available.
In this experiment there is no informed consent as subjects were not informed as to what the study involved all they new they were to get on a particular train. There was no total protection to participants as they could have had serious after effects from a situation where someone collapses on a train because of the shock and not knowing what to do.