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PSYB01H3 (581)
Chapter 3

Chapter 3

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Connie Boudens

Chapter 3- Ethics in Behavioral Research  “Obedience” experiments by Stanley Milgram- 1960, Experiment where two people are involved and one person is labeled as the “learner” and one as the “teacher.” The learner is strapped down in a chair with electrotrodes strapped on his wrist. There are four steps to this experiment: o (1) Teacher reads aloud a series of word pairs, like blue box, nice day, wild duck, and so forth o (2) Next, you read one of the first words from those pairs and a set of four words, one of which contains the original paired word o (3) The Learner states the word that he thinks was paired with the first word you read. o (4) After each mistake, you are to flip the next switch on the console, progressing from left to right, increasing the intensity of the shock HISTORICAL BACKGROUND  Nuremberg War Crime Trials- 1946, exposed horrific medical experiments conducted by Nazi doctors and others in the name of “science”  Tuskegee syphilis study- 1930s, researchers funded by the U.S. Public Health Service had followed 399 low-income African American men Electing data to learn about the “natural” course of the illness o Many participants were not informed of their illness and were denied treatment until 1972
even though a cure (penicillin) was developed in the 1950s  The Commission’s 1979 Belmont Report established three basic ethical Principles for the protection of human subjects o Respect for persons: Treating
persons as autonomous agents and protecting those with diminished autonomy o Beneficence: Minimizing possible harms and maximizing benefits o Justice: Distributing benefits and risks of research fairly  Department of Health and Human Services and the Food and Drug Administration then translated these principles into specific regulations that were adopted in 1991 as the Federal Policy for the Protection of Human Subjects  Federal regulations require that every institution that seeks federal funding for biomedical or behavioral research on human subjects have an institutional review board (IRB) that reviews research proposals o IRBs at universities and other agencies apply ethical standards that are set by federal regulations but can be expanded or specified by the IRB itself o To promote adequate review of ethical issues, the regulations require that IRBs include members with diverse backgrounds  Office for Protection from Research Risks in the National Institutes of Health monitors IRBs, with the exception of research involving drugs (which is the responsibility of the Federal Food and Drug Administration)  American Psychological Association (APA) started the process of developing an ethics code in 1938, when it formed a committee to consider the issue  Work on a formal APA ethics code then began in 1947  A committee reviewed more than 1,000 descriptions of “critical incidents” in which practicing psychologists had been confronted by ethical issues, deliberated about the ethical principles that should guide decisions in such incidents, and sought feedback from APA members  Resulting ethics code was published in 1953 and has subsequently been revised nine times ETHICAL PRINCIPLES  The 2002 APA Ethics Code, the most recent version, contains 151 enforceable Ethical Standards as well as five General Principles  General Principles are meant to be general “aspirational” values that capture the discipline’s “moral vision” and are consistent with the Belmont Report’s three ethical principles, while the Ethical Standards are meant to apply to all APA members and to be enforced by the APA Ethics Committee o More than half of the state boards that license psychologists as well as numerous other bodies stipulate that psychologists must comply with the APA Ethics Code o Violations of the Code can be investigated by the APA Ethics Committee and lead to sanctions ranging from a reprimand to expulsion  Fifteen of the Code’s 151 Enforceable Standards pertain specifically to research and publication, but many others—on competence, human relations, privacy and confidentiality, and assessment—have direct implications for research practice PRINCIPLE A: BENEFICENCE AND NONMALEFICENCE  Psychologists seek to safeguard the welfare and rights of those with whom they interact professionally and other affected persons, and the welfare of animal subjects of research o They attempt to resolve these conflicts in a responsible fashion that avoids or minimizes harm o They are alert to and guard against personal, financial, social, organizational, or political factors that might lead to misuse of their influence  Psychologists strive to be aware of the possible effect of their own physical and mental health on their ability to help those with whom they work PRINCIPLE B: FIDELITY AND RESPONSIBILITY  Psychologists are aware of their professional and scientific responsibilities to society and to the scientific communities in which they work  Psychologists uphold professional standards of conduct, clarify their professional roles and obligations, accept appropriate responsibility for their behavior, and seek to manage conflicts of interest that could lead to exploitation or harm  Psychologists consult with, refer to, or cooperate with other professionals and institutions to the extent needed to serve the best interests of those with whom they work  Psychologists are concerned about the ethical compliance of their colleagues’ scientific and professional conduct PRINCIPLE C: INTEGRITY  Psychologists seek to promote accuracy, honesty, and truthfulness in the science, teaching, and practice of psychology  Psychologists do not steal, cheat, or engage in fraud, subterfuge, or intentional misrepresentation of fact  Psychologists strive to keep their promises and to avoid unwise or unclear commitments  Psychologists have a serious obligation to consider the need for, the possible consequences of, and their responsibility to correct any resulting mistrust or other harmful effects that arise from the use of such techniques PRINCIPLE D: JUSTICE  Psychologists recognize that fairness and justice entitle all persons to access to and benefit from the contributions of psychology and to equal quality in the processes, procedures, and services being conducted by psychologists  Psychologists exercise reasonable judgment and take precautions to ensure that their potential biases, the boundaries of their competence, and the limitations of their expertise do not lead to or condone unjust practices PRINCIPLE E: RESPECT FOR PEOPLE’S RIGHTS AND DIGNITY  Psychologists are aware that special safeguards may be necessary to protect the rights and welfare of persons or communities whose vulnerabilities impair autonomous decision making  Psychologists are aware of and respect cultural, individual, and role differences, including those based on age, gender, gender identity, language, and socioeconomic status and consider these factors when working with members of such groups  Psychologists try to eliminate the effect on their work of biases based on those factors, and they do not knowingly participate in or condone activities of others based upon such prejudices ACHIEVING VALID RESULTS (PRINCIPLE B: FIDELITY AND RESPONSIIBLITY)  Commitment to achieving valid results is the necessary starting point for ethical research practice o No business asking people to answer questions, submit to observations, or participate in experimental procedures if we are simply seeking to verify our existing prejudices or convince others to take action on behalf of our personal interests  The pursuit of objective knowledge about human behavior—the goal of validity—that motivates and justifies our investigations and gives us some claim to the right to influence others to participate in our research  Details in Milgram’s 1963 article and 1974 book on the obedience experiments make a compelling case for his commitment to achieving valid results— to learning how and why obedience influences behavior o He devised experiments to study the process of obedience in a way that would seem realistic to the subjects and still allow “important variables to be manipulated at several points in the experiment”  Milgram’s (1963) attention to validity is also apparent in his reflections on “the particular conditions” of his experiment, for, he notes, “understanding of the phenomenon of obedience must rest on an analysis of [these conditions]” o Conditions included the setting for the experiment at Yale University, its purported “worthy purpose” to advance knowledge about learning and memory, and the voluntary participation of the subject as well as of the Learner—as far as the subject knew o Importance of some of these ‘particular conditions” (such as the location at Yale) was then tested in subsequent replications of the basic experiment  American Psychologist published a critique of the experiment’s ethics by psychologist Diana Baumrind o Her critique begins with a rejection of the external validity—the generalizability—of the experiment  [T]he laboratory is unfamiliar as a setting and the rules of behavior ambiguous. . . . Therefore, the laboratory is not the place to study degree of obedience or suggestibility, as a function of a particular experimental condition  Stanley Milgram disagreed with (among other things) the notion that it is inappropriate to study obedience in a laboratory setting: “A subject’s obedience is no less problematical because it occurs within a social institution called the psychological experiment  Milgram (1974) also pointed out that his experiment had been replicated in other places and settings with the same results, that there was considerable evidence that subjects had believed that they actually were administering shocks, and that the “essence” of his experimental manipulation—the request that subjects comply with a legitimate authority—was shared with the dilemma faced by people in Nazi Germany, soldiers at the My Lai massacre in Vietnam, and even cultists who drank poison in Jonestown, Guyana, at the command of their leader, Jim Jones  Diana Baumrind in a follow-up article in the American Psychologist, she argued that “Far from illuminating real life, as he claimed, Milgram in fact appeared to have constructed a set of conditions so internally inconsistent that they could not occur in real life” MAINTAINING PROFESSIONAL INTEGRITY (PRINCIPLE C)  The scientific concern with validity requires in turn that scientists be open in disclosing their methods and honest in presenting their findings (APA Ethics Code)  Research distorted by political or personal pressures to find particular outcomes or to achieve the most marketable results is unlikely to be carried out in an honest and open fashion  In order to assess the validity of a researcher’s conclusions and the ethics of their procedures, you need to know exactly how the research was conducted o Articles or other reports must include a detailed methodology section, perhaps supplemented by appendices containing the research instruments or websites or other contact information where more information can be obtained  Stanley Milgram’s research exemplifies adherence to the goal of honesty and openness o Initial 1963 article included a detailed description of study procedures, including the text of the general introduction, the procedures involved in the learning task, “shock generator,” administration of the “sample shock,” the shock instructions and the preliminary practice run, the standardized feedback from the ‘victim” and from the experimenter, and the measures used  The act of publication itself is a vital element in maintaining openness and honesty o Others can review and question study procedures and so generate an open dialogue with the researcher  Some researchers may hesitate to disclose their procedures or results to prevent others from building on their ideas and taking some of the credit PROTECTING RESEARCH PARTICIPANTS (PRINCIPLE A: BENEFICENCE AND NONMALEFICENCE)  Protection of research participants is the most important ethical principle AVOID HARMING RESEARCH PARTICIPANTS  Refer back to Milgram’s shock experiments- as incorrect answers increased, shock intensity increased resulting in the participents sweating, trembling, stuttering, biting their
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