5 Scientific Foundations of Psychology
STEP 4 Review the Knowledge You Need to Score High
Whether involved in research or practice, psychologists need to act responsibly and morally. Studies conducted by Harry Harlow involving rhesus monkeys separated from their mothers and subjected to frightening conditions, studies by Phil Zimbardo involving students role-playing prisoners and guards, and studies conducted by Stanley Milgram in which participants believed they were delivering painful electric shocks to another person were highly publicized in the 1960s and 1970s. Following Milgram’s experiments, members of the American Psychological Association strengthened their ethical guidelines regarding research design, implementation, and practice; and other groups adopted similar guidelines. The guidelines prevent unnecessary deception and pain to humans and other animals, and they protect confidentiality.
All public and most private institutions have Institutional Review Boards (IRBs) that must approve all research conducted within their institutions. Boards specifically protect participants by requiring researchers to obtain signed informed-consent agreements from all participants. These statements describe procedures, risks, benefits, and the right of the participant not to participate or to withdraw from the research study without penalty at any time. Research participants cannot be deceived about significant aspects that would affect their willingness to participate. After the participant finishes his or her part or research is completed, participants are debriefed about the research (i.e., the nature, results, and conclusions of the research are revealed).
Psychologists who conduct research involving other animals must treat them humanely; acquire, care for, use, and dispose of animals properly; and make efforts to minimize their discomfort, infection, illness, and pain.
The American Psychological Association (APA) lists ethical principles and code of conduct for the scientific, educational, or professional roles for all psychologists. They include all aspects of the practice of psychology as well as research, teaching, and supervision of trainees. They also include all aspects of their performance in public service, policy development, social intervention, and development and conduction of assessments, to name but a few. The code applies to all activities whether in person or by phone, social media, or any other form of transmission or contact. Briefly, they include the following:
• Discuss intellectual property frankly. The “publish-or-perish” mindset can lead to trouble when it comes to determining credit for authorship. The best way to avoid disagreements, according to the APA, is to discuss these issues openly at the start of a working relationship, even though many people often feel uncomfortable about such topics.
• Be conscious of multiple roles. This includes avoiding relationships that could negatively affect professional performance or exploit or harm others. Participation in a study should be voluntary, and not coerced or influenced as part of a grade, raise, or promotion.
• Follow informed consent rules such as IRBs, which ensure that individuals are voluntarily participating in the research with full knowledge of relevant risks and benefits. Participants should be informed of the following:
• The purpose, expected duration, and procedures of the research.
• Their rights to decline to participate and withdraw from the research once it has begun, as well as consequences, if any, of doing so.
• Factors that might influence their willingness to participate, such as possible risks, discomfort, or adverse effects.
• Any possible research benefits.
• Limits of confidentiality and when that confidentiality must be broken.
• Incentives for participation, if any.
• Contact information for response to further questions.