Homework for my TA – comments that I have made. 25/11/11
November 25, 2011, 11:41 pm
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Do the ends justify the means?
November 21, 2011, 11:29 pm
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Some of our greatest findings have come from very controversial studies where standards of ethical practice have been questionable. So why do we need and follow ethical guidelines when all that they do is restrict what we can and cannot do and slow up the process of discovery and development.  Doesn’t most research rely on a little bit of deception?  If all information is disclosed to participants it may undermine the purpose of the study.  If all information is not disclosed then participants are not giving informed consent.  In the case of harm, should the discomfort of the few condemn influential and positive research findings?

Milgram’s study of obedience (1963), demonstrated that many people are susceptible to manipulation by those in positions of authority and were capable of committing heinous acts.


Zimbardo’s Stanford Prison experiment (1973), demonstrated how people conform to the social roles they are expected to play, especially if the roles are strongly stereotyped and that the roles that people play can shape their behaviour and attitudes.


Although the above studies have greatly attributed to our knowledge and understanding they have been heavily criticised for breaching ethical standards.

Other studies have gone far beyond an acceptable level of ethical standards with human beings treated in the most depraved and appalling manner.

The Tuskegee syphilis experiment (1932 –1972) was a research project intended to document the natural progression of syphilis. The subjects of this study did not have a meaningful understanding of their condition or the nature of the research that was being conducted.  Many subjects thought they were receiving beneficial medical care and did not understand they were participating in research designed to specifically observe the course of their illness. The subjects were followed, untreated, many years after penicillin was known to cure syphilis. Physicians deliberately denied these men treatment for syphilis and also attempted to prevent treatment from other sources.


The Jewish Chronic Disease Hospital (1963) performed experiments on chronically ill, mostly demented patients.  The subjects of this study who did not have cancer were injected with live human cancer cell into their bloodstream. The purpose of the research was to determine how a weakened immune system influenced the spread of cancer. The physicians did not inform the patients as to what they were doing, rationalising their actions as they did not want to scare the patients and they thought the cells would be rejected.


In 1948 In the Nuremberg Code was developed in response of judgment by an American military war crimes tribunal conducting proceedings against 23 Nazi physicians and administrators for their willing participation in war crimes and crimes against humanity. Nazi physicians had conducted medical experiments on concentration camp prisoners who died or were permanently affected as a result.  The Nuremberg Code laid down 10 standards for physicians to conform to when carrying out experiments on human participants.


In 1964, the World Medical Association developed ethical principles as guidance for medical doctors in biomedical research involving human subjects. The World Medical Association adopted the Declaration of Helsinki in response to concerns with research on patient populations. The Declaration of Helsinki has been regularly revised.


For the American psychological Asociation (APA) guidelines –


For the British Psychology Society guidelines –


All psychologists are bound by these codes of ethics, for which I am thankful, as they guard against conducting research which may be detrimental to another human being, which may cause feelings of guilt.  I would not ask someone to do something that I myself would not do.  Ethical guidelines give protection for the participant and the researcher.