Ethical considerations in the research process involve the moral values that must be observed when conducting research. These include the values of the associated participants and the consideration of their privacy about the handling of the personal information collected during the studies. It is apparent that different institutions have been established to ensure that researchers in the psychological field observe certain guidelines when handling private information of the participants in the studies.
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Ethical considerations also entail the process of providing the participants in a study with the relevant information about the nature of the experiments involved to ensure they give informed consent to participate. It is apparent that “Researchers are bound by both law and conscience to treat their participants ethically” (Kalat, 2014, p. 46). As more institutions in the education system continue enhancing their capabilities to conduct independent psychological researches, the Institutional Review Board has been established to ensure that every study in the field of psychology is reviewed before the publishing of the findings. The relevant authorities have the power to compel the researchers to follow the due process to ensure the ethical guidelines are followed.
One of the primary requirements in the development of a study in the field of psychology is ensuring that the participants give informed consent. When a study involves literate adults, it is a requirement for the researcher to provide the participants with a consent form highlighting the nature and purpose of the study. The participants should particularly be informed if any intrusive procedures are to be included in the study.
Additionally, if the participants are children or people with mental impairment, the consent form should be signed by the parents or the caregivers of the participants. The signatories must be adults, and they must be acquainted with the relevant information about the study in question. Possible risks in the research should be communicated effectively to the participants (Myers & Hansen, 2011).
Even if a study is not associated with any significant risks to the participants, the researcher should ensure that written consent is signed by the participants to uphold an ethical approach to the study. In studies that involve high-risks, the relevant authorities should be involved in the provision of the relevant ethical guidelines to eliminate any controversies relating to informed consent.
Ethical guidelines in the development of psychological studies have become commonplace in the modern world, following the pressure generated by past studies. Over the first half of the 20th century, researchers in the field of psychology were involved in the development of questionable approaches to their studies, and some have been adversely criticized by modern society. For instance, the renowned ‘Monster Study’ of 1939, which involved a speech pathology research, stands out as one of the main reasons for the establishment of authorities to overlook the ethical factors associated with psychological studies.
The study involved two groups of orphaned children, whereby one of the groups was subjected to salutations for their achievements in life, while the second group was rebuked for their personal failures, and belittled for their defects and mistakes in life (LeVay, 2014). Some critics have compared the Monster Study with the inhumane experiments performed in the concentration camps during World War II because its approach would be considered criminal in the contemporary world. It is, therefore, imperative for the associated authorities in the modern world to be involved in the regulation of all studies related to the field of psychology to protect the participants from being subjected to any unreasonable physical or psychological torture in the course of the experiments involved.
A critical view at some of the unethical approaches used in studies in the past reveals that, in some cases, the researchers had the aim to record valid data, which helped in the development of theories that have helped researchers in the modern world. However, it is also clear that the researchers should have at least provided information on the aims of the studies and the approaches involved to the participants.
For instance, if the researchers in the Monster Study had informed the children and their guardians about the aim and procedure of the experiment, the participants would not have faced the resultant extensive psychological pain. However, informing the participants of the psychological torture that would help in creating valid observations would have jeopardized the validity of the results. Most scientists believe that if the end justifies the means, it is appropriate to keep some information from the participants. Participants’ bias in the responding process can lead to the collection of unreliable data, which implies that deceiving the participants can improve the reliability of the data.
In some cases, deceiving the participants is necessary for the elimination of participants’ bias. For instance, in Stanley Milgram’s study on obedience, the participants were given the wrong information about the aim of the study. The study involved the evaluation of the obedience level of the participants based on their perception of the authority of the researcher and the torture inflicted on the participants being punished.
However, the participants were told that the study investigated the effects of punishment on the cognitive ability of people (Sampson, 2015). Kalat (2014) reveals that situations where researchers have to hide the main purpose of a study from the participants are quite common. However, any controversial study in the modern world should be reviewed by the Institutional Review Board to ensure the relevant guidelines on ethics are followed by the researchers.
While I have never been involved in the study associated with unethical approaches or any other controversial issues, I believe that the scientific community should continue being actively engaged in the regulation of psychological studies. The researchers should be compelled to treat the participants of the studies with respect, and the required moral obligations of the researchers should be met. Scientists should look into ensuring that their quest for knowledge in the different fields of science does not involve the infliction of unreasonable physical or psychological pain intentionally. The value of individuals should reflect in the guidelines developed to ensure an ethical approach is always embraced by scientists in the modern world.
All possible drawbacks of the procedures involved in a study must be considered before the participants are engaged in the experiments. The scientists in the contemporary world should take the responsibility of setting ethical standards in psychological studies higher to ensure future researchers embrace the ultimate ethical consideration in studies. I will always be an active advocate for scientists to observe the ethical guidelines set by the authorities to eliminate controversial situations regarding the treatment of the participants by the researchers.
Kalat, J. W. (2014). Introduction to Psychology (10th ed.). Belmont, CA: Wadsworth, Cengage Learning.
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LeVay, S. (2014). When science goes wrong. New York: Plume.
Myers, A., & Hansen, C. (2011). Experimental psychology (7th ed.). Pacific Grove, CA, USA: Brooks/Cole Publishing.
Sampson, E. E. (2015). Dialogic partners and the shaping of social reality: Implications for good and evil in Milgram’s studies of obedience. Pastoral Psychology, 64(1), 51-61.