Should all psychological experiments be ethical?
Psychology is very different to most other subject areas because its subject matter is entirely human or animal. This means that practically all of the research involves living things that can be caused physical or psychological harm. Ethics is split into three distinct areas. This aims at protecting: the individual from physical/psychological harm, the wider social group from harm or prejudice and animals from abuse whilst being used in psychological experiments.
Guidelines and codes of conduct have been set up so that experiments are ethical. The British Psychological Society (BPS) and the American Psychological Association (APA) were set up. They both produce codes of conduct for both experimentation and for clinical practice. However a code also exists for the protection of animals during psychological experiments.
Some animal experiments have gone way beyond the realms of ethics. The monkey drug trials are an example of this. A large group of monkeys were trained to inject themselves with an assortment of drugs, including morphine, alcohol, codeine, cocaine, and amphetamines. Once the animals were capable of self-injecting, they were left to their own devices with a large supply of each drug. The animals were so disturbed that some tried so hard to escape that they broke their arms in the process and many of the monkeys dies. The point of the experiment was to understand the effects of drug use and addiction, but I think that most ethical people would know not to treat animals in such an appalling way.
For it to be ethical psychological research has to consider the wider community. Milgram’s experiment showed deception in a lab setting. At the start of the experiment they were introduced to another participant, which was actually a confederate of Milgram. There were two roles of either a learner or the teacher. The learner was strapped to a chair and tested on pairs of words. The teacher was told to give an electric shock every time the learner made a mistake, increasing the level of shock each time. There were 30 switches on the shock generator marked from 15 volts to 450 volts. The learner gave mainly wrong answers (on purpose) and for each of these the teacher gave him an electric shock. When the teacher refused to administer a shock and turned to the experimenter for guidance, he was given the standard order to continue giving the shocks. I think this study is unethical but deceiving the participants was needed as the study would have otherwise not have worked. If the wellbeing of the participants is being ignored then how can the study be considered as ethical?
Some research is discriminating against different races or different ethnic groups, for example studies on peoples IQ. I think that the outcomes of some research can be used to manipulate people’s behaviour and Skinner’s work on behaviour shaping could be abused and the idea of training or conditioning people to do certain actions is not ethical and takes away peoples free will.
I think that all psychological experiments should evaluate all the ethics before carrying out a study. If it puts a person in serious harm then I don’t think it should be allowed as I would consider that unethical.