Considering ethics.

5 Feb

There are many cultures in the world; all of these cultures share relatively different norms. A specific culture may have a belief that a certain action is acceptable; however another culture may condemn the specific action. For example, Mormons believe in polygamy; Polygamy is the belief that it is acceptable to have more than one wife or husband. Although it is accepted in Mormonism, it is illegal in many western cultures and you will face imprisonment for committing the act of bigamy (having more than one wife or husband).  This difference in cultures ties in with ethical relativism. Ethical relativism understands that different cultures have different ethical beliefs.

In the United Kingdom we have certain ethical guidelines that we obey when it comes to participant testing, however different cultures may not abide by the same ethical guidelines.  Ethical guidelines are put in place within psychology to protect participants from any psychological or physical harm during experiments, they are also there to help make decisions and choose the correct actions in experiments.  Before these guidelines were set up, experiments were extreme and caused harm to participants and experimenters had to intervene. The Stanford prison study carried out by Zimbardo et al (1973), became unethical and had to be shut down,  the participants that were assigned to be the guards in the experiment began to act up to their roles, making the participants assigned to be the prisoners do unhygienic tasks such as using their bare hands to clean the toilets.  This became humiliating for the prisoners and lead to anxiety and depression, which lead to cutting the experiment short after only six days.  It is understandable why these ethical guidelines are now in place. The guidelines are based around a few of the following possible ethical issues:

  • Withholding information or misleading participants is often needed in order to gain specific results. This is called deception. It must be argued whether the potential harm to the participant is worth the need for deception.  Debriefing participants may counteract the deception and is advised.
  • Informed consent is needed in order to carry out the experiment, all relevant information about the study and what it entails must be given to the participant in order for them to make the decision as to whether they will take part or not.
  •  Confidentiality is crucial, especially when personal information has been disclosed. It is vital that no one is able to access any personal information.
  • The participant should leave the experiment in the same physical and psychological state as they entered the experiment

Research into humans or non humans will highlight the question of ethics; ethical approval must be gained before any research is carried out.  The ethics system is becoming stricter with its guidelines to prevent any harm and to take into account ethical relativism; this may result in different guidelines being made for different cultures, due to their different morals and beliefs. Ethics is a big part of today’s society especially within research and needs to be abided by carefully.


5 Responses to “Considering ethics.”

  1. kennedy92 February 7, 2012 at 7:49 pm #

    I think this topic is a very good topic to consider. Ethics is something that we make fun of sometimes; a bit like how ridiculous health and safety rules now are. These kind of rules sometimes are taken too far and then become ridiculed when they are to prevent the kinds of extremes like the Zimbardo experiment. Of course the other famous experiment that was deemed unethical was Milgrams obedience study. This website explains the methods and ethical considerations in depth . Milgrams experiment did not actually cause serious harm in huge amounts as the shocks in the experiment were not real however he told the participants they were and this is extreme decption. I do think aspects of his experiment were unethical HOWEVER without this experiment (and Zimbardo’s experiment) there would be aspects of human behaviour that we would not understand and blame on other things like Nazi Germans acted the way they did in the second world war ‘because they were German’ when these experiments prove that that is not the case. I think we are now at risk of research becoming pointless as there are soon going to be soooo many restrictions what we can research and how we can do it there will be no point in doing it in the first place. so i do think we are in risk of going too much in the opposite direction so I do think the people making these rules need to consider that.

  2. robinson8040 February 8, 2012 at 6:05 pm #

    Very true, but of course there are some generally understood rights and wrong that almost every culture adheres to. Quite a few of the ethical guidelines are suited to most developed cultures I mean preventing Physicological and Psychological harm is a pretty basic human impulse because not all studies were extreme and violent before ethics existed. Milgram’s study was created before ethics, so he had no need to fulfil any ethical criteria, yet he carefully constructed his study to be would he considered ethical and took many steps to make sure his ideas were correct including consulting a massive board other professionals that all agreed he was carrying out ethical research. Even today the APA ethics board still agrees that the study was performed ethically. They is a danger of allowing different cultures to have their own ethical guidelines for example in some dictatorships the ends always justify the means so as far as their concerned vicious conduct might be ethical and allowing if the APA accept these cultures then they should also allow them to be published, it could mean we end up with some studies we consider horrific studies being openly funded, published and available.

  3. zjww February 10, 2012 at 1:33 pm #

    I agree with Kennedy92 that strict ethical guidelines may start to hinder research to the extent of pointless research which do not benefit society, but without guidelines research such as Nazi experimentation done during WW2 such as the investigation of the effectiveness of sulfonamide were wounds inflicted on subjects were infected with bacteria such as Streptococcus, gas gangrene, and tetanus. I also believe that stricter guidelines should be used on animal experimentation as animals have been exposed to experimentation that humans would not dream of considering to do to there on species as William Inge said: we have treated our distant cousins in fur and feathers so badly that beyond doubt, if they were to formulate a religion, they would depict the Devil in human form…

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