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By TANAKAPASI May 29, 2014 1529 Words
Cardwell (1996) described ethics as norms of conduct which considers acceptable behaviour in the pursuit of a particular personal or scientific goal. Ethics are very important when carrying out any type of psychological research and before any research method is carried out it is vital to stick to an ethical code of practise for the results should be reliable with internal or external validity. Ethics are boundaries set in order to protect participants from psychological harm and it is a psychologist’s duty to ensure that these guidelines are followed. Some of important ethical issues include informed consent, debriefing, protection of participants, deception, confidentiality, withdrawal from an investigation and to mention only a few. The purpose of this essay is to clearly evaluate how these ethical issues mentioned above are important in research and giving valid examples using case studies where researches with ethical issues were conducted.

Zechmeister (2012), suggest that ethics are important in research because when informed consent have been done which is giving much information as possible to the participants, the participants have the right to stop the research from going on. In all circumstances, investigators must consider the ethical implications and psychological consequences for the participants of research. The essential principle is that the investigation should be considered from the stand point of all participants; foreseeable threats to their psychological well-being, health, values or dignity should be eliminated. Therefore, that’s why ethics are important in research. However, there is no guarantee that ethics avoid psychological harm, for example, Milgram’s study of obedience where he used the ethic of debriefing after deception, the participants were affected psychologically after experiments. In the case of Milgram’s research there was involvement of some deception, where by researchers withhold information about the purpose or procedures of the study to the participant. The reason for doing so being that researchers believe that if participants know the truth on the purpose of a study, their behaviour in it will be changed by that knowledge. Thus, the research will not yield valid information about behaviour in question. However, deception has been found to present as harmful to participants as it may result in emotional instability, the use of deception therefore poses as an ethical dilemma, on the other hand, it seems essential to the research, on the other it raises psychological harm.

Ethics are important in research for they are used to avoid psychological harm that would disturb and distress the participant during the experiment and in the future, for example, Watson and Rayners study of little Albert. They used classical conditioning to cause Albert to have phobia of the rat which was accompanied with a loud voice, which later developed further till he had a phobia associated with similar objects. This would be seen largely as breaking the code of ethics as Albert suffered psychological harm and distress during and after experiment, hence, ethics such as debriefing which is informing the participant at the end of the experiment and informed consent which is giving a full brief of information to participants before they make their decision to participate are important in research for they guide as protection from harm to the participants both physically and psychologically to avoid distress. Informed consent and thorough debriefing can substantially reduce the potential dangers of deception and psychological harm, when working with youth under the age of eighteen, parental consent might be required. In addition to parental consent for minors, youth should also be asked for consent to participate if not the researchers should be authorised with parents or guardian. however, in as much as researchers would try to avoid psychological harm with informing the participants, the results at times will come out with no external validity meaning not applicable to the whole population and also the results will be biased since the participants will be knowing the purpose of research and again through that knowledge behaviour is changed, thus research will not yield valid information.

Koocher (1988) described ethics as norms which serve the aims or goals of research and apply to people who conduct scientific research or other scholarly or creative activities. There are several reasons why it is important to adhere to ethical norms in research. Ethics provide norms to promote the aims of research, such as knowledge, truth, and avoidance of error. For example, prohibitions against fabricating, falsifying, or misrepresenting research data promote the truth and avoid error. More so, since research often involves a great deal of cooperation and coordination among many different people in different disciplines and institutions, Folkman (2000) ethical standards promote the values that are essential to collaborative work, such as trust, accountability, mutual respect, and fairness. Psychological investigators are potentially interested in all aspects of human behaviour and conscious experience. However, for ethical reasons, some areas of human experience and behaviour may be beyond the reach of experiment, observation or other form of psychological investigation. In studies where the participants are aware that they have taken part in an investigation, when the data have been collected, the investigator should provide the participants with any necessary information to complete their understanding of the nature of the research. The investigator should discuss with participants their experience of the research in order to monitor any unforeseen negative effects or misconceptions. Therefore, Ethics are important in research for they give the goals and purpose of the research for it is necessary to clarify the conditions under which psychological research is acceptable.

Ethics in research are also important because they protect participant’s confidentiality (Mclead 2007), Participants in psychological research should have confidence in the investigators. Good psychological research is possible only if there is mutual respect and confidence between investigators and participants. The respect and trust is only gained when the ethics norms of conducts are kept during research. The achieved data must remain anonymous and confidential without publishing the identity of the participants and in some cases a fake name is used to protect the identity of the participants when the research is being published. An Individual right to privacy must be respected and valued especially in those cases where the research is on sexual abuse, or any sexually related issues where the participants are not comfortable to disclose their identity, therefore, the ethics are important in research for they seek confidentiality in research, however, some of the researchers they breach the code of confidentiality when publishing their research, for example when the participant is guilty or has provided information which might harm other people and have committed a terrible crime violating the rights of other individuals, a psychologist might be asked by the authorities to testify against the participants thus breaching the code of conduct of confidentiality.

Ethics are important in research for it allows participants to withdraw when they have any discomfort during the research or the experiment major ethic is concerned with the right of the participant to withdraw both themselves and any data they have generated from the experiment at any time without penalty. Participants should be reminded wherever possible that they are able to withdraw, especially if they are experiencing any form of distress issues of intrusion. If Eysenck (1998) uses Milgram’s research on obedience (1974) Milgram’s experiment on obedience, the subjects were told that they were involved in an experiment concerned with “the effects of punishment on learning”. If a question was answered incorrectly, they were to administer an electrical shock of increasing intensity as a punishment to the person who answered the question incorrectly as an example of a breach of this principle, as participants were told “that they had to proceed with the experiment, even if they were very reluctant to do so”. Reminding subjects of their right to withdraw is an illustration of the need of the researcher to be aware of changes in the participant’s demeanour. Hence, Ethics are indeed important in research for they allow participant’s to withdraw when there are any discomforts during the research. . However, it can sometimes not be possible to allow participants’ withdrawal when it is an observational research method taking place where the researcher will be observing naturally occurring behaviours. However, if participants are unaware that they are in a study it will raise ethical issues of intrusion.

To conclude from the above argument, indeed ethics are important in research for they build mutual trust and respect between the participants and the researcher, they serve normal goals and objectives of the research, and they protect the participants from psychological and physical harm. Ethics are important for both the researcher and the participant at a larger degree, although there are some problems associated with the use of ethics as some ethics will disturb the yielding of valid and reliable research results.




Koocher, GP and Keith-Spiegel, P (1998) Ethics in Psychology New York: Oxford University Press

Sales, B.D., & Folkman, S. (Eds.). (2000). Ethics in research with human participants. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association

American Psychological Association. (2002). Ethical principles of psychologists and code of conduct. American Psychologist

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