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Ethics in Psychological Research

Ethics in Psychological Research. Psych 395 - DeShon. Extra Credit. Two Ways to Earn Extra Credit: Maximum of 20 points 1. Research Pool Participation 10 experimental credits = 2. A Journal Article 2. Commentary 1 commentary is worth 10 points Points are all or none.

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Ethics in Psychological Research

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  1. Ethics in Psychological Research Psych 395 - DeShon

  2. Extra Credit • Two Ways to Earn Extra Credit: • Maximum of 20 points • 1. Research Pool Participation • 10 experimental credits = 2. A Journal Article • 2. Commentary • 1 commentary is worth 10 points • Points are all or none

  3. Journal Article Commentary (Part 1) • Due by start of the last class (7 December 2006) • Select an article that was published within the last 5 years from one of these outlets: • Abnormal Psychology • Developmental Psychology • Journal of Applied Psychology • Journal of Experimental Psychology • Journal of Personality and Social Psychology • Health Psychology • Any Other Psychological Journal that I Approve • Read the Article Very Carefully • Must NOT be an article that you use for your paper!

  4. Journal Article Commentary (Part 2) • Write a 5-6 page Summary/Commentary • What was the point of the study? • What was the main hypothesis? • What was the Independent Variable? • What was the Dependent Variable? • What were the Operational Definitions? • What were the Major Results? • What was the Interpretation of the Results? • What were the Methodological Strengths and Weaknesses of the Article?

  5. Outline • Middlemist Study • Milgram Study • Tuskegee Syphilis Study • The Belmont Report and Three Ethical Principles • Deception in Psychological Research • Other Ethical Issues

  6. Gerald Koocher (1977) - Bathroom Behavior and Human Dignity • Investigators should have made the cost/benefit rationale explicit. • What cost/benefit ratio? • Cost to the human dignity to participants: Benefits to the participant and to society/science. • “I subscribe to the belief that when a potential problem of a subject’s [sic] rights is at issue, a discussion of the cost/benefit rational is imperative” (p. 121)

  7. A Reply to Koocher – Middlemist et al. (1977) • The behavior was naturally occurring and would have happened without the presence of the observer • Pilot Study: All men indicated a low level of concern and were not bothered by the study. • All have encountered similar invasions of personal space at other times • However, participants in the main study were not debriefed. • Authors believed that their study had benefits and little costs.

  8. Behavioral Study of Obedience Milgram (1963). Journal of Abnormal and Social Psychology, 67, p. 371-378.

  9. Procedure from Milgram (1963) • 40 Male participants are told that the study is about memory and learning. The goal is to help another person learn word pairs (e.g., nice-day, dog-cat). • How? Shock the Learner! • “Random” draw to see who is the teacher and who is the learner. The learner is really a confederate. • Teacher is put in front of an electronic shock generator with a range of voltage levels (range 15 to 450 volts) • Labels: Slight Shock to Danger: Severe Shock • At 300 volts the Learner pounds on the wall

  10. How Far Did Participants Go?

  11. Results – Maximum Shock

  12. In Milgram’s words… • “Of the 40 subjects, 26 obeyed the orders of the experimenter to the end, proceeding to punish the victim until they reached the most potent shock available on the generator…” • The maximum shock was labeled 450 volts, and this was two steps beyond the designation: “Danger: Severe Shock”

  13. Other Results • Participants were asked “How painful to the learner were the last few shocks that you administered to him?” • Used a 14 Point Scale (1=Not at All to 14=Extremely Painful). • Mean: 13.42 • Mode: 14 • What does this mean?

  14. Participants were Distressed (Milgram, 1963, p. 375). • In a large number of cases the degree of tension reached extremes that are rarely seen in the sociopsychological laboratory. • Subjects [sic] were observed to sweat, tremble, stutter, bite their lips, groan, and dig their fingernails intro their flesh. These were characteristic rather than exceptional responses to the experiment • Observed regular occurrence of nervous laughing. • Full-blown uncontrollable seizure were observed for 3 subjects [sic]. One man had a seizure that was “so violently convulsive that it was necessary to call a halt to the experiment”

  15. What are the Ethical Concerns with this Study?

  16. Baumrind (1964) • I do regard the emotional disturbance described by Milgram as potentially harmful because it could easily effect an alternation in the subject’s [sic] self-image or ability to trust adult authorities in the future. • Participants were distressed because they: • A. Trusted the experimenter • B. Were concerned about their victims • We expect the experimenter to prevent the participant from leaving the lab more humiliated, insecure, alienated, or hostile than when she/he arrived.

  17. Tuskegee Syphilis Study http://www.cdc.gov/nchstp/od/tuskegee/time.htm

  18. The eight men who are survivors of the syphilis study at Tuskegee are a living link to a time not so very long ago that many Americans would prefer not to remember, but we dare not forget. It was a time when our nation failed to live up to its ideals, when our nation broke the trust with our people that is the very foundation of our democracy … without remembering it, we cannot make amends and we cannot go forward. - President Clinton (16 May 1997)

  19. What is Syphilis?See: http://www.cdc.gov/std/syphilis/default.htm • STD caused by the bacterium, Treponema pallidum. • In 2002: 32,871 cases of syphilis (432 congenital) • Men to Women Ratio: 3.5 to 1. • Spread through direct contact with sores or passed from mother to infant. • First couple of stages involve sores/skin rashes • Then syphilis remains in the body and begins to damage the internal organs • Consequences include difficulty coordinating muscle movements, paralysis, numbness, gradual blindness, dementia, and even death.

  20. Details of the Tuskegee Syphilis Study • From 1932 to 1972 a longitudinal study was conducted in Macon county, Alabama. • 399 men with syphilis were compared with 201 uninfected men. All participants were African American • Participants were promised free treatments for “bad blood.” Participants were not told they had syphilis. • By 1945, Penicillin was the treatment of choice for syphilis.

  21. Ethical Problems • Men agreed to be freely examined and treated. However, they were not informed of the real purpose of the study and thus could not provide informed consent. • Men were never given adequate treatment for syphilis. Never given the choice to quit the study once the benefits of penicillin were known to researchers.

  22. Aftermath • Tuskegee Health Benefit Program provides lifetime benefits to the widows and offspring of “participants” in the Tuskegee Syphilis Study. • National Research Act in 1974 established the rule that all federally funded research involving human participants must be approved by an Institutional Review Board

  23. President Clinton’s Remarks (16 May 1997) "The United States government did something that was wrong -- deeply, profoundly, morally wrong. It was an outrage to our commitment to integrity and equality for all our citizens. To the survivors, to the wives and family members, the children and the grandchildren, I say what you know: No power on Earth can give you back the lives lost, the pain suffered, the years of internal torment and anguish. What was done cannot be undone. But we can end the silence. We can stop turning our heads away. We can look at you in the eye and finally say on behalf of the American people, what the United States government did was shameful, and I am sorry.”

  24. Ethical Principles for Research Involving Human Participants

  25. Belmont Report • http://www.hhs.gov/ohrp/humansubjects/guidance/belmont.htm#xrespect • Created on 18 April 1979 – named after the Belmont Conference Center in Elkridge, Maryland. • Articulated three "basic ethical principles" relevant to research involving human participants • Respect for Persons • Beneficence • Justice

  26. Respect for Persons • Two Ideas: • Individuals should be treated as autonomous agents • Individuals with diminished autonomy are entitled to protection

  27. Beneficence • Acts of kindness or charity. In the Belmont report, beneficence is an obligation. • Two general rules: • Do Not Harm • Maximize Benefits and Minimize Harms

  28. Justice • Who ought to receive the benefits of research and bear its burdens? An injustice occurs when an entitled benefit is denied or when a burden is imposed unduly. • The Tuskegee syphilis study used disadvantaged, rural African American men to study the untreated course of a disease that afflicts many other populations. Those men were deprived of treatment once it was available.

  29. Applications of these Principles • Informed Consent (see text for details) • Exercise special care with certain populations like prisoners. • Information must be easily understood so people can make an informed decision • Avoid hyperclaiming or stating that research is likely to achieve goals that it is unlikely to achieve. • Cost/Benefit Analysis • Fair selection of participants

  30. 6 Key Themes in Ethical Research • Informed Consent • Freedom from Coercion • Protection from Physical and Psychological Harm • Protection of Privacy, Confidentiality, or Anonymity • The Risk-Benefit Rule • Debriefing

  31. Special Issue: Deception The Milgram Studies

  32. When is Deception Permissible?

  33. When is Deception Permissible? • According to the American Psychological Association (APA), it is permissible to use deception under these conditions: • The research is important • There are no alternatives • There is no foreseeable harm to participants • Sometimes deception is the only way to investigate important questions. • Complete Details: • http://www.apa.org/ethics/

  34. APA on Deception • a) Psychologists do not conduct a study involving deception unless they have determined that the use of deceptive techniques is justified by the study's significant prospective scientific, educational, or applied value and that effective nondeceptive alternative procedures are not feasible. • (b) Psychologists do not deceive prospective participants about research that is reasonably expected to cause physical pain or severe emotional distress. • (c) Psychologists explain any deception that is an integral feature of the design and conduct of an experiment to participants as early as is feasible, preferably at the conclusion of their participation, but no later than at the conclusion of the data collection, and permit participants to withdraw their data.

  35. Broader Ethical Issues (Rosenthal, 1994) • Rosenthal argues that research that is of higher scientific quality is likely to be more ethically defensible. • Why? Research takes resources (time, money, brain power). It is easier to justify the expenditure of resources on higher quality projects than on lower quality projects.

  36. Consider Payoffs Associated with Research (Rosenthal, 1994) • High Utility and Low Cost = Do the Research • Low Utility and High Cost = Don’t Do the Research • Also consider the costs of not doing a study. Those lost opportunities reflect choices with ethical consequences. • Consider an oncology group that might be close to finding a cancer preventive but thinks the work is dull and a distraction from their real interests.

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