Essay Example on Ethical issues is Zimbardo 1971

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One example of previous research that has been done which faces ethical issues is Zimbardo 1971 This study involved 24 male participants who were assigned to either the guard condition or the prisoner condition in a simulated prison at Stanford University Zimbardo wanted to find out whether brutality in American prisons was due to dispositional or situational factors The study found that the participants quickly conformed to the assigned roles the guards were being brutal to the prisoners even though before the study they showed no sadistic qualities suggesting this was due to the prison environment There were many ethical issues clearly involved in this study There was arguably not fully informed consent from participants as is what unknown what could potentially happen in the study and the participants who were prisoners did not actually give their permission to being arrested at their homes There was also a huge breach of protection from harm as some participants were experiencing humiliation and distress For example a prisoner was released after 36 hours because they had a screaming and crying fit and showed high levels of anger and distress Also prisoners were made to strip down Milgram s 1963 study was another ethically questionable study which involved 40 male participants who were assigned to a teacher role and a confederate who was assigned to a learner role The teacher was required to read out some word pairs and if the learner got any wrong when reciting them a shock had to be administered by the teacher


The participants had been told that they were going to participate in research on memory and learning and therefore consented to take part based on this knowledge so fully informed consent was not gained by Milgram as the participants did not know the true nature of the study that it was actually a study into obedience However arguably informed consent was gained after the participants were debriefed The participants were necessarily deceived in Milgram s defence because if the participants knew the aim of the study before or during there would have been demand characteristics which would have messed up the results of the study Participants right to withdraw was arguably breached due to prods that the experimenter gave including please continue which could have caused participants to carry on even though they didn t really wish to do so Also many participants showed distress for example three participants had uncontrollable seizures Both the British Psychological Society BPS and the American Psychological Association APA give ethical guidelines which researchers must adhere to for their research to be accepted as ethical The BPS Code of ethics and conduct was published in 2009 It includes standards of respect which ensures researchers value the dignity and worth of all participants competence which ensures researchers are aware of their capabilities and limits of their training knowledge and experience responsibility which ensures researchers understand the responsibilities they have to participants the public and psychology and integrity which ensures researchers are honest accurate and fair 


The APA Ethical Standards of Psychologists was published in 1953 which was the first ethical code they created and was over 170 pages long It presented many ethical dilemmas that psychologists wrote to the committee about although the makers of this first code allowed it to be a continual work in progress The APA adopted the ethical principles of psychologists and code of conduct in 2002 then amended it in 2010 and again in 2016 Now the 2017 edition is only 16 pages long The code gives ethical standards information including how to resolve ethical issues competence human relations privacy and confidentiality advertising record keeping education and training research and publications assessment and therapy Since this introduction of ethical guidelines there have been improvements in the ethics of studies One example of this is a partial replication of Milgram 1963 conducted by Burger 2009 This study replicated Milgram in as many ways as it ethically could however it made several changes in the procedure of the study In Milgram s study shocks went up to 450V so many participants became distressed towards the end which was unethical Burger noted that in Variation 5 of Milgram s experiment all the participants who dropped out did so by 150V and the participants who continued after 150V went on to the end So 150V was named the point of no return

Therefore in Burger s study if participants went to continue past 150V the experiment would be stopped and it was assumed that they would carry on to 450V preventing them from experiencing high levels of distress Also in Burger s study participants were told at least three times that they could withdraw from the study at any time However this was not done in Milgram s study The participants were therefore made more aware of their right to withdraw in this study than in Milgram s Also in Burger s replication the participant only received a 15V sample shock as opposed to the 45V sample shock given to participants in Milgram s study these were done to give a taste of what the shocks felt like for the learner therefore meaning that there was less physical harm done to the participants in Burger s study as the shock they received was lower To conclude we can see that there have been many issues in past with ethics However due to these issues being addressed and solutions being created such as the ethical codes research is now not allowed to be conducted if it breaks the guidelines that these codes set out Deception however is still necessary in much research conducted by psychologists as it is the only way to reduce demand characteristics in certain circumstances but it is only acceptable so long as participants are fully debriefed and consenting after data has been gathered


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