Discuss ethical considerations related to research studies at the sociocultural level of analysis.

Introduction


  • State what you are doing in the essay 
    • This essay will attempt to offer a balanced review of ethical considerations related to research at the sociocultural level of analysis (SLA). 

  • Define the sociocultural level of analysis 
    • The sociocultural level of analysis (SCLA) is the scientific study of how people's thoughts, feelings and thus behaviours are influenced by actual, implied or imagined presence of others and the environment around them. 

  • Describe ethical considerations 
    • In psychology, ethics must be considered to ensure participants (humans and animals) are not harmed and that research conducted is ethically valid.
    • Ethics can be defined as moral principles and rules of conduct that guide and govern an individual or group"s behaviour. 
    • Researchers should always conduct research in an ethical manner and studies should always be critically evaluated for ethical issues.
    • Ethical standards made by the American Psychology Association (APA) that all research done in psychology must abide by. 
    • These ethics are 

      • Protection of participants 
        • Participants should be protected from physical and mental harm and distress 
        • This includes humiliation, stress, injury, etc.
        • Participants should not be forced to reveal personal information. 

      • Consent 
        • Participants must be informed of the true aims and nature of research before giving consent 
        • Sometimes it is not possible to give full information about research. 
          • Participant bias: knowing the true aims of a study may affect participants' behaviour and thus the results of a study 
          • It is considered acceptable not to give full informed consent if no harm is expected 
        • A guardian or family member should also give consent to the study if the participants are 
          • Children under 18 years of age
          • Adults incompetent of understanding the true nature and aims of the study

      • Right to withdraw 
        • Participants should be informed of their right to withdraw their participation and data at any time in the study (even at the end) without penalty. 

      • Confidentiality
        • Data collected in a study should remain confidential and anonymous to protect participants from possible consequences that may result from their data 

      • Deception 
        • Deception should be avoided
        • But slight deception is considered acceptable if: 
          • Participant bias would result from participants knowing the true aims of the study 
          • The research has potential significant contribution 
          • It is unavoidable 
          • The deception does not cause any distress to the participant, including upon being informed of the deception
        • If deception is involved, informed consent is not obtained 
        • Any deception must be revealed at the earliest opportunity 

      • Debriefing 
        • Participants should leave the study without undue stress 
        • Findings of the research should be made available to participants as soon as possible 
        • Any deception must be revealed and justified 

Body

Introduce
  • In the SCLA, there are studies which claim to be of an unethical nature because of certain principlesr methods in which the researcher/s undertook. Some of the major ethical studies in the SCLA include:
    • Zimbardo, Haney and Banks (1971) 
    • Milgram (1963) 
    • Asch (1955) 

Evidence 

Study 1: Zimbardo, Haney and Banks (1971) 

Method: 
  • Zimbardo created a simulation of a prison in Stanford University basement 
  • Participants 
    • University students
    • Screened for psychological normality
    • 21 most stable (physically and mentally) men were selected 
    • Randomly assigned to be 10 prisoners and 11 guards
       
  • Ethical issues of this study
    • There were a set of ethical issues in this study, which include: 

      • Informed consent
        • All participants signed a contract that they would play their role for two weeks. 
          • The contract made clear that prisoner role would remove some basic civil rights (such as privacy and freedom) 
        • Participants were informed of the nature of the experiment and their withdrawal of rights before giving consent 
        • However, participants were not told they would be arrested and taken to the police station

      • Deception 
        • Prisoners were "arrested" by real police and driven to a police station where they were booked and fingerprinted. 
        • Zimbardo defends his experiment by saying that this was the only deception involved 
          • The rest had been explained in the contract. 

      • Privacy 
        • Participants were blindfolded and driven to the prison, where they were stripped and deloused 
        • But participants were informed of breach of privacy in the contract before the study

      • Participant protection 
        • Before the study began the "guards" attended a meeting with the governor (Zimbardo) and were told they were not allowed to use physical punishment or aggression 
        • In the study guards became aggressive towards prisoners 
        • Guards withdrew many of the prisoners' "rights" 
        • Guards and prisoners showed tendency towards increasingly negative emotions. 
        • Prisoners became passive, depressed, anxious 
        • 5 prisoners had to be released early (by day two) because of extreme depression (crying, rage and acute anxiety etc) 
        • The experiment ended after 6 days, despite the intention to continue for 2 weeks. 
        • Zimbardo did not stop the study immediately when participants began feeling distressed 
        • However, he argues that the decision to terminate the experiment early showed his ethical concern.
           
      • Withdrawal 
        • Prisoner #8612 expressed desire to leave the study 
        • But he was encouraged not to leave and was offered to be an informant in exchange for no guard harassment. 
        • He believed that it was not possible to leave the study 

      • Debriefing 
        • Extensive group and individual debriefing sessions were held 
        • All participants returned post-experimental questionnaires at regular intervals for years later 

Study 2: Milgram (1963) 
Method: 
  • The na├»ve participant received the role of teacher 
  • Another 'participant' who was a confederate had the role of learner 
  • The naive participant was in a room with another confederate acting as an experimenter 
  • The teacher gave the learner a word, with which the learner had to identify its pair 
  • The teacher was to administer electric shocks when the learner provided a wrong answer 
  • The shock generator was never actually used on the learner in the study 
    • They only pretended to receive electric shocks 
  • Learner gave mostly wrong answers and received shocks in silence until 300 volts when they pounded on the wall and gave no response to the next question 
  • When the teacher felt unsure about continuing, the experimenter would give them standard "prods" urging them to continue 

Ethical issues of this study
  • There were a set of ethical issues in this study, which include: 

    • Withdrawal 
      • Even though participants were encouraged to continue with the experiment, they were not forced 
      • Milgram still abused the right for participants to withdrawal because they were told to continue when they expressed desire to stop participating in the study 

    • Participant Protection 
      • Participants showed signs of extreme tension 
        • sweat 
        • trembling 
        • stuttering 
        • groaning 
      • Milgram did not stop the experiment when participants showed signs of distress 

    • Debriefing 
      • At end of experiment, participants were debriefed 
        • Reunited with the learner and assured there had been no shocks 
        • Told that their behaviour was normal and feelings were shared by others 
      • Follow up questionnaire showed that 
        • 84% were glad to have participated
        • 74% felt they had learned something of personal importance 
        • 1 participant felt sorry to have participated 

    • Consent 
      • Participants were not informed of the true nature and aims of the study before giving consent.
        • They did not know that the study aimed to investigate obedience to authority 
      • But being fully informed of the true nature and aims of the study may result in participant bias

    • Deception 
      • Participants were deceived about the aims and nature of the study 
        • Participants were told the study aimed to test the effect of punishment on learning 
        • But it was actually investigating obedience 
      • Participants were deceived about the confederates 
        • They were lead to believe that the confederate who was the learner was a participant 
        • They believed the confederate in the room with them was an experimenter 


Study 3: Asch (1955)

Method:
  • A naive participant was put in a room with seven confederates, who they believed were also real participants 
  • In the line judgement task, each person had to say aloud which comparison line (A, B or C) was most like the target line. 
  • The answer was always obvious. 
  • Confederates gave the wrong answer in 12/18 trials. 
  • Asch was interested to see if the participant would conform to the majority view. 

Ethical issues of this study
  • There were a set of ethical issues in this study, which include: 

    • Consent 
      • Participants were not informed of the true nature and aims of the study before giving consent. 
        • They did not know that the study aimed to investigate conformity 
      • But being fully informed of the true nature and aims of the study may result in participant bias

    • Deception 
      • Participants were deceived about the aims and nature of the study 
        • Participants were told it was a 'visual perception study' 
        • But it was actually investigating conformity 
      • Participants were deceived about the confederates 
        • They were lead to believe that the confederates were fellow participants 

    • Debriefing 
      • After the experiment, participants were debriefed 
      • When asked to explain their conformity most said, 
        • they had conformed in order to avoid criticism and social disapproval.
        • they did not really believe their conforming answers, but had gone along with the group for fear of being ridiculed or thought "peculiar". 

    • Participant Protection 
      • Participants may have experienced stress from pressure to conform 
      • Participants may have felt embarrassed or lost self-esteem, upon finding out the true nature of the study 

Conclusion 

  • Ethical considerations in all research in psychology includes, 
    • Protection of participants from harm 
    • Consent
    • Withdrawal
    • Confidentiality 
    • Deception 
    • Debriefing 
  • But there are slight exceptions for consent and deception 
  • Animal research has slightly different ethical considerations 
    • Differences regard harming participants and ethical euthanasia