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Chapter 3

PSYB01H3 Chapter 3: Chapter 3

Course Code
Anna Nagy

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What are Ethics?
involves the application of moral principles concerning what an individual
considers right and wrong to help guide one’s decisions and behavior
there is no definite right or wrong answer to ethical dilemmas
people use their own perspectives and experiences
psychology test →people may adopt
utilitarian perspective
your decision should do the greatest good for the greatest number of
altruistic perspective
helping without personal benefit
individuals should act in accordance with their own self-interests
Important Ethical Principles
US federal gov’t published “Ethical Principles and Guidelines for the
Protection of Human Subjects of Research”
or the Belmont Report :)
it outlines 3 basic ethical principles
1. Belmont Principle 1 : Beneficence
a. cost-benefit analysis
i. ensure that the study’s positive outcomes exceed potential
negative experiences or risk to participants
b. we value beneficence
i. acting with the purpose of benefiting others
1. research should benefit the society! field! participants
ii. it should not factor potential benefit to themselves
1. at minimum, we should maximize the benefits that our
participants derive from being in the study
a. e.g. learning ab the research process, monetary
payment, credit toward a college course
c. the goal! nonmaleficence
i. researchers should do no harm!
d. loss of confidentiality
i. the responses or behaviour of individuals becoming public
knowledge or the focus of public scrutiny
ii. it’s not the same as anonymity
e. anonymity

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i. the pledge that participants’ individual responses cannot link
back to their personal identity.
1. many studies, researchers can assure confidentiality but
not anonymity
a. e.g. if they provide their e-mail address
2. still, researchers believe that participants are more
concerned with confidentiality than anonymity
f. physical harm
i. in 1940s the US gov’t purposefully infected participants in
Guatemala in effort to test potential treatments
ii. infected also prisoners with bacteria collected from local
1. some of them would be encouraged to have sex with
infected prostitutes
g. psychological harm
i. emotional suffering or mental distress such as concern, worry,
and decreased self-esteem
1. one of the most immediate relevant risk when conducting
psychological research
ii. e.g. Milgram’s → participants were told to deliver potential lethal
shocks to other participants
iii. e.g. Zimbardo → Stanford prison study
iv. :/ sometimes distress is necessary
1. if it’s necessary, make sure it’s short term
h. costs of not doing the research
i. e.g. you may decide against conducting this potentially
important study because it might cause some short-term stress
for the participants.
1. one might argue that not pursuing this line of research is
unethical → may potentially improve people’s lives
ii. therefore not doing the research should be included in the cost-
benefit analysis
Belmont Principle 2: Justice
involves fairness when deciding who to use as study participants and
what role they will play in the study
justice in participant selection
we choose participants equitably!
we don’t target vulnerable individuals!
yet, it’s not always off limits
If we can show how our research question requires using a potentially
vulnerable population and we can demonstrate the potential benefits, it
may be ethical to include them as research participants.

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there should be an equal distribution of cost and benefits for all participants
Belmont Principle 3: Respect for Persons
the research has to respect the participant’s autonomy
people are capable of making deliberate, informed decisions about
their participation in the research
have the right to freely choose to be in the research!
first it must be voluntary
does not involve coercion
do not threaten or bribe individuals
power over others
e.g. Little Albert study by John Watson
little Albert’s mother was a low-level employee working
with Watson
to ensure autonomy, research should obtain informed consent
this shows what the research is about and what are the possible
yet, knowledge of this sort of information might prevent the participants from
acting naturally during the course of the experiment itself.
A participant must be able to leave the study at any time without any
negative consequences. This means that, as the researcher, you must
continue to offer any promised benefits, such as a little gift or extra
credit, to participants even if they decide to not complete the study.
the informed consent should minimize scientific jargon (specialized
legal guardians can provide consent for minors or incapable people
researchers, if possible, ask the participants to give assent
an active affirmation of a desire to participate that acknowledges that,
at least legally, the participant is not capable of providing their own
informed consent.
Ethics Through a Historical Lens
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