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Research Methods

Lesson 6

Introduction to Ethical Issues Investigation and Design Produced by

Consent Deception Debriefing Withdrawal Ethical Issues

Confidentiality Protection of Participants Observational Research Giving Advice Colleagues

Introduction to Ethics • Research directly or indirectly can cause psychological, cultural or physical harm to a person, community or culture if it breaches the rights or disregards the best interest of those who participate in it. • Researchers in psychology have a responsibility to conduct their research in an ethical manner. • The British Psychological Society (BPS) has published a range of guidelines on ethical issues to which all psychologists should adhere to. • There are nine different aspects of ethics to consider.

Key Terms: Ethical Guideline: • The ethical guidelines tells the researcher what they should do to conduct a research that is ethically acceptable. Ethical Issue: • An ethical issue occurs when there is a dilemma between what the researcher wants to do in order to conduct their research and the rights and dignity of the participant.

BPS Guidelines Consent: • When someone consents to participate in research, their consent must be informed, i.e. the aims of the research should be made clear. • In addition, anything that may influence their willingness to participate must be disclosed. • Where the research involves children under the age of 16, then consent must be obtained from parents or guardians of the child.

Deception: • Information must not be withheld from the participants, nor should they be misled, if they are likely to object when debriefed at the end of the procedure. • Alternatives to deception must be considered.

Debriefing: • Following an investigation, participants should be fully informed about the nature of the research. • The participants experiences of the research should also be discussed. • Debriefing following an investigation does not justify the use of an unethical procedure.

Withdrawal from an investigation: • Participants have the right to withdraw at any time, regardless of whether or not they were paid for their participation. • They should be informed of this prior to the commencement of the study. • Participants can also withdraw at a later stage, after the study has been conducted. In this case the researcher is required to destroy any data or information collected from those who have chosen to withdraw.

Confidentiality: • Participants have the right to confidentiality. If confidentiality cannot be guaranteed or assured, then this must be disclosed to the participants before they consent to participate in the research. • The Data Protection Act requires you to maintain the confidentiality of those people about whom you have collected information from.

Protection of participants: • Psychologists have a responsibility for protecting participants from physical or mental harm, including undue stress and anxiety. • The risk of harm should not be greater than that to which a person can be exposed to in everyday life.

Observational Research: • Observation studies must protect the privacy and psychological well-being of those being observed. • Where consent for observation has not been obtained, privacy is an important issue. • Participants should not be observed in situations where they would not normally expect others to observe their behaviour.

Giving advice: • Sometimes during the course of research:  physical or psychological problems are identified by the researcher  participants solicit advice from the researcher

• Great care must be taken in these situations. Where the problem may be serious, and you are unqualified to advise or help, professional advice should be suggested. • If you are unsure about what such source may be, then you should say so and not be tempted to offer any advice.

Colleagues: • An investigator or researcher is responsible for the ethical conduct of their research, and that of their colleagues. • Where you feel a colleague may be following an unethical procedure, then you should raise your concerns with them and encourage them to reevaluate what they are doing.

Examiner’s Tip • Avoid making the mistake of confusing ethical guidelines with ethical issues. If you remember the mnemonic ‘DIP’, answering the question should be very simple. (D – deception) (I – informed consent) (P – protection of participants). • In questions that ask you to identify ethical issues, simply name or briefly describe the issue – there is no need to explain. • However, it is also common for there to be an exam question that asks you to explain why something is an ethical issue.

Deception: • Deception is an ethical issue because it prevents the participant from giving informed consent and the participant may find themselves in research against their wishes. • It is also an issue because the participants may start to become distrustful of psychologists in the future.

Informed consent: • Lack of informed consent means that the participant has not agreed to be in the research and may find themselves taking part in research against their wishes. The participant has not agreed to be in the research which breaks ethical guidelines. • This is also an issue because the participants may start to become distrustful of psychologists in the future

Protection of participants: • Participants have the right not to be harmed as the results of participating in a piece of psychological research. • The participants should leave the research the same as when they entered it. If they are harmed they may suffer long-term effects which could impact on their later lives. Examples of this could be trauma, stress and anxiety.

Dealing with ethical issues Deception: • Very common in psychological research. Menges (1973) reviewed 1000 studies carried out in America and found 80% involved not giving participants full information.

Methods dealing with Deception: • Participants should be debriefed at the end of an experiment and informed about the true aim of the experiment. • The aim of debriefing is to restore participants to the state prior to participating in your research. • Retrospective informed consent: during debriefing once the participant is aware of the true aim they should be informed of their right to withdraw if they wish to do so.

Informed Consent: • A further issue raised by research that involves children under the age of 16. • The age of the participant may mean that the child does not fully understand what they are participating in, thus impacting on the ability to give informed consent.

Methods dealing with informed consent: • Prior general consent: this solution involves obtaining the prior consent of participants to be involved in research that involves deception. If the participant agrees that they would not object to being deceived it is assumed they have agreed to being deceived. • Presumptive consent: this involves taking a random sample of the population and introducing them to the research, including any deception involved. If after the experiment they believe they would have given consent to the research we can generalise and assume that the remainder of the general population would also have agreed.

• Children as participants: this is resolved by gaining the consent of the parents or guardians and those in loco parentis, e.g. the headmistress of the school that the child attends.

Protection of participants: • When we speak about the protection of participants we are referring to both the psychological and physical well being of the participants. • No harm should come to them in anyway that could affect their psychological or physical well being.

Methods dealing with protection of participants: • The researcher should remind participants of their right o withdraw if at any point during the research the level of stress is higher than anticipated. • The researcher is responsible for terminating any research results if psychological or physical harm is higher than expected. • Debriefing is the most important part of protection of participants.

Key Points of this Lesson: • The BPS has published a set of guidelines that relate with human participants. Psychologists should adhere to these guidelines when conducting research. • The three main ethical issues in psychological research are: deception, informed consent and protection of participants. • Ways of dealing with deception are debriefing and retrospective consent. • Ways of dealing with informed consent are presumptive consent and prior general consent.

• Ways of dealing with protection of participants include debriefing and termination of the study.

Research Methods - Ethical Issues