•Current regulations concerning the conduct of research with human participants
requires a risk-benefit analysis before research can be approved.
Risks in Psychological Research
Some potentially stressful research procedures are as follows:
•Procedures that could cause potential harm to a participant are rare, but exist
nonetheless. Many medical procedures fall in this category (ie administering a
•The risks require that great care be taken to make them ethically acceptable and
there would need to be clear benefits of the research that would outweigh
•More common than physical stress is psychological stress (ie extreme fear or
anxiety imposed on the participant by the experiment – Schachter told participants
they were going to receive an extreme shock, even though they weren’t, to
observe the effects of the anxiety)
•Another form of possible stress is when researchers give unfavorable feedback
about the participants to observe the effects on their self esteem.
•Another way stress may be caused is if you ask about traumatic events of the past.
•When stress is possible, it must be asked if all safeguards have been taken to help
participants deal with the stress. Usually there is a “debriefing” following the
study that is designed to address and potential problems that may arise during the
Loss of Privacy and Confidentiality
•Researchers must take care to protect the privacy of individuals. At minimum,
identities should be protected by keeping data locked in a safe place.
•Confidentiality becomes especially important when studying sensitive subjects
such as sexual behavior, divorce, family violence, drug abuse, etc. In most cases,
responses are completely anonymous. This is the case, for example, with many
•In cases, such as personal interviews, where the identity of the individual is
known, the researcher must take special care to plan ways of coding data, storing
data, and explaining the procedures to participants so there is no question about
•In some cases, such as when individuals are studied on multiple occasions over
time, it is necessary to know the identity of the participants. In these cases,
researchers should develop ways to identify the individual but keep their identity
information separate from their data, so that if questionnaires or computerized
data was ever seen by anyone, it could not be linked to a specific individual.