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Chapter 3

chapter 3 notes

Course Code
Connie Boudens

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Chapter 3: Ethical Research
-Milgram’s obedience experiment (pg 38)
The Belmont Report
-Current ethical guidelines for both behavioural and medical researchers have their
origins in The Belmont Report
-This report defined the principles that have guided more detailed regulations and
American Psychological Association ethics
-3 principles are beneficence, respect for persons (autonomy), and justice
-The applications of these principles are assessment of risks and benefits, informed
consent, and selection of subjects
Assessment of Risks and Benefits
-Principle of Beneficence : need for research to maximize benefits and minimize
harm of participation
-In decisions about research ethics, we must calculate potential risks and benefits
likely to result, aka risk benefit analysis
-Risks to participants include factors like psychological or physical harm and loss
of confidentiality
-Also, the cost of not doing the study can be considered if the proposed procedure
is the only way to collect valuable data
-Benefits include direct benefits to the participants, like educational benefit,
learning new skills, or treatment for problems; also material benefits like money,
gifts, or winning prize from a raffle
-Less tangible benefits include satisfaction from being part of a study and
potential beneficial applications of the findings
Risk in psychological research
-Physical harm: procedures that could cause physical harm to participants are rare
but possible. Risks in such procedures require caution is taken to make them
ethically ok. Needs to be clear benefits of the research that outweigh potential
-Stress: psych stress is more common than physical stress. When stress is
possible, must ask if all safeguards have been taken to help subjects deal with the
stress. Usually there is “debriefing” after the study that is designed to address
problems that may arise during the research
-Loss of privacy and confidentiality: researchers must protect the privacy of ppl.
Researchers should protect by keeping all data locked in a safe place. Sometimes,
the risks entailed with loss of confidentiality are so great that researchers may
apply for a Certificate of Confidentiality from the US Department of Health
Informed consent
-Belmont Report’s principle of respect for persons or autonomy states that
participants are treated as autonomous; they are capable of making decisions

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about participating in research. Informed consent: potential subjects in a research
project should be given all information that might influence their decision to
participate. They can freely consent or refuse to participate and can withdraw at
any time.
Informed Consent form
-Subjects are given some informed consent form that has information the subjects
need to make their decision. Subjects read and sign the form. Important that
subjects understand the information in the form. Forms should be written in
simple and straightforward language that avoids technical terms. Shouldn’t be
written in first person. Should be provided as if the researcher were having a
conversation with the subject. If subjects don’t speak English, there should be a
translated version
Autonomy issues
-Minors, patients in psychiatric hospitals, or adults with cognitive impairments
require special precautions. When asking minors, a written consent form signed
by a guardian is required plus agreement by the minor. This agreement by a minor
is called assent. Coercion is another threat to autonomy. Any procedure that limits
a person’s freedom to consent is potentially coercive. Sometimes benefits are so
great that they become coercive, example: professors requiring students in a class
to participate in a study to pass the course
Information issues: withholding information and deception
-Giving too much information could invalidate the results of the study
-It is generally accepted to withhold information when the information would not
affect the decision to participate and when the information will later be debriefed
when the study is completed
-Most people who volunteer for psychology research do not expect full disclosure
about the study prior to participation
-There are research procedures in which informed consent is not necessary or even
possible, example: observe the number of same-sex and mixed-sex study groups
in your library
-When planning research, it is important to make sure that you do have good
reasons not to have any informed consent
-Deception occurs when there is active misrepresentation of information
oMilgrams experiment illustrates 2 types of deception
oFirst there was deception about the purpose of the study
oParticipants became part of a series of events staged for purposes of the
study. A confederate of the experimenter played part of another participant
in the study
oResearch shows that giving informed consent may bias participants
responses, at least in some research areas
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