Chapter 3: Ethics in Behavioural Research
Milgram: Obedience Experiment also surveyed Yale undergrads whose mean maximum shock level
was 9.35. Actual average of shock administered by participants was 24.53.
Basis for research ethics
Code of Conduct, American Psychological Association – 83 standards adopted in 2002 to guide
psychologists clinical and research practices.
Nuremberg War Crime Trials – 1946 exposed horrific medical experiment conducted by Nazi doctors
and others in the name of “science”
Tuskegee Syphilis Study – 1970s Americans learnt they funded researchers who collected data from
399 African-American men to learn about the natural cause of the illness; participants were not informed
of their illness and were denied treatment until 1972 even though a cure, Penicillin was developed in
Belmont Report – created by National Commission for the Protection of Human Subjects of Biomedical
and Behavioural Research; it has 3 ethical principals for the protection of human subjects:
1. Respects For Persons – treating persons as autonomous agents and protecting those with
2. Beneficence – minimizing harm, maximizing benefit
3. Justice – distributing benefits and risks of research fairly
Federal Policy for Protection of Human Subjects – specific regulations based on the Belmont Report
principles that were adopted in 1991 by the Department of Health and Human Services and the Food and
Institutional Review Board (IRB) – federal regulations require that every institution that seeks federal
funding for biomedical research on human subjects have this board to review research proposals
Office For Protection from Research Risks – monitors IRBs with the exception of drug research
APA’s Ethics Code
151 ethical standards
15 directly related to research and publication
APA Ethics Committee investigated violations
5 General Principles; consistent with Belmont Report’s 3 principles
A. Beneficence and Nonmaleficence – has to be positive outcome for doing research
(knowledge gained) and no or minimal harm done to participants
B. Fidelity and Responsibility – establish relations of trust with those whom they work,
aware of responsibilities for their behaviour and manage conflicts that could lead to
exploitation or harm.
C. Integrity – promote accuracy, honesty, and truthfulness in science, teaching, and practice
of psychology; do not steal, cheat, or engage in fraud, subterfuge or intentional
misrepresentation of fact.
D. Justice – fairness and justice entitle all persons to access to and benefit from the
contributions of psychology and to equal quality; exercise reasonable judgment and take
precautions to ensure that their potential biases, boundaries of competence, and
limitations of expertise do not lead or condone unjust practices
E. Respect For People’s Rights and Dignity – respect the dignity and worth of all people
and their rights to individual privacy, confidentiality and self-determination. They must
eliminate the effect on their work of biases.
4 Central Ethical Research Principles: Achieving Valid Results (Principle B Fidelity and Responsibility) – pursuit of objective
knowledge must be the goal; cannot justify resources required for study unless something is
learned about human behaviour.
o Milgram: objectively studied obedience and suggestibility but he was criticized for
generalizability because the research lab doesn't apply to conditions in the real world,
but it was replicated in many settings with much evidence.
Eg. Nazi soldiers in Germany, and how their actions were carried out
Maintain Professional Integrity (Principle C Integrity) – method of study must be detailed in
order to assess validity; publication plays vital role in maintaining honesty and openness
o Dispute about who discovered the AIDS virus
Protect Research Subjects (Principle A Beneficence and Nonmaleficence) –
o Avoid Harming Research Participants
Milgram: Potential harm to participants because it alters self-image or ability to
trust adult authorities in the future shown in most deceptive experiments, but
evidence suggested that it did not psychologically affect them.