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APA’s ethics code applies to psychological research involving human subjects. It guards against unethical conduct or actions that may portend harm to human participants. Specifically, the eighth standard deals with the ethical principles guiding research and publication. This paper reviews and discusses the importance of three sub-standards of the eighth standard and describes how they apply in a research process involving human participants.
Informed Consent to Research
A primary ethical high ideal for obtaining informed consent entails a prior disclosure of the study’s purpose and design to the participants. It also requires the researcher to divulge comprehensive information pertinent to the research, including the timelines, procedures, incentives offered, right to withdraw from the study, anticipated participation risks, confidentiality levels, and study benefits. Informed consent essentially enhances the participants’ understanding of the subject and willingness to participate. It is important for various ethical reasons. First, it helps meet the principles of beneficence and fairness entitled to human subjects. Second, communicating pertinent information related to the research helps minimize potential harm to the participants. From a procedural standpoint, informed consent is also a key requirement of the Institutional Review Board guidelines.
Offering Inducements for Research Participation
According to this sub-standard, the incentives given for participation must be appropriate and reasonable. Providing excessive incentives could be perceived as undue participant coercion. Another way to look at this sub-standard is related to the provision of professional services to clients. In this case, the researcher should elucidate the type of services, potential effects, and the expected roles of the participants in the research. Fair cash payments are important in encouraging participation. However, offering disproportionate incentives amounts to undue inducement that has a likelihood of ‘blinding’ the subjects to overlook the risks inherent in the study or individual values/interests. Therefore, the incentives should be fair to encourage participation without subjugating the rights of the participants.
Sharing Research Data for Verification
Peer analysis of work or data can help validate a study’s findings. This sub-standard requires psychologists to share data related to a published study to allow other experts to verify or validate the claims. However, this does not affect measures to protect the confidentiality of the subjects. The professionals who require the data to validate the findings must utilize them exclusively for the purpose communicated. The significance of this sub-standard relates to experimental reproducibility. Research validity is grounded in the reproducibility of the findings or claims. Therefore, data sharing minimizes selection bias and enhances the likelihood of detecting and correcting mistakes in study design or interpretation.
A Mindfulness-based Stress Reduction (MBSR) Study
MBSR involves mindfulness practices and training aimed at enabling clients to cope with stress (van den Hurk, Schellekens, Molema, Speckens, & van der Drift, 2015). Usually, participants go through a psycho-education program in which they are taught mindfulness to improve how they cope with depressive symptoms. MBSR interventions help patients focus on his/her breath/respiration to gain insights into how the mind works and develop calm and focus (Hjeltnes, Binder, Moltu, & Dundas, 2015). An MBSR study often involves pre- and post-treatment surveys to determine the efficacy of the intervention. It entails comparisons of survey data obtained after mindfulness training with baseline data and control groups.
The standards discussed will be applicable to an MBSR study involving student participants with stress-related disorders. After IRB approval, informed consent will be obtained from the participants. According to Hjeltnes et al. (2015), in practice, informed consent is sought when participants turn up to enroll in the experimentation following ads on the campus notice board The ads will indicate that only students diagnosed with stress-related disorders will participate. In obtaining consent, students will receive comprehensive information on the MBSR intervention, study purpose, and expected outcomes/benefits to decide if they would want to sign up for the study.
The provision of inducements is another component of the eighth standard that applies to this research. Cash incentives will be avoided because of the coercive power associated with monetary rewards. Instead, small college credit will be offered for participating in a 2-month MBSR course. The approach will also help establish good graces between the researcher and participants and increase their morale.
Data sharing is also applicable to this research. The hypothesis of the proposed study is that MBSR treatment is an effective intervention for relieving stress and other mental disorders. Evidently, the knowledge and experience of the researcher may lead to affirmative bias. Therefore, data sharing will allow verification of the evidence or claims presented in the study by peers. It will also allow experts to reproduce the findings using a different set of subjects.
Protection of Human Subjects
In this study, the participants will include students with stress-related or mental illnesses. The subjects will be treated with respect to guaranteeing autonomy. Additional protection will be given to those with minimal autonomy due to their conditions. Harm to the participants will be reduced by focusing on the beneficence principle – improved coping abilities. Their identities will remain anonymous and the confidentiality of the survey data or responses will be guaranteed. In conclusion, the three sub-standards not only help in the protection of human participants, but they also enhance the validity of the evidence on MSBR through peer review.
Hjeltnes, A., Binder, P., Moltu, C., & Dundas, I. (2015). Facing the fear of failure: An explorative qualitative study of client experiences in a mindfulness-based stress reduction program for university students with academic evaluation anxiety. International Journal of Qualitative Studies on Health and Well-Being, 10(27990), 1-15. Web.
Van den Hurk, G. M., Schellekens, P. J., Molema, J., Speckens, E. M., & van der Drift, M. A. (2015). Mindfulness-based stress reduction for lung cancer patients and their partners: Results of a mixed methods pilot study. Palliative Medicine, 29(7), 652-660. Web.