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APA Ethics: Identifying and Addressing Ethical Issues in Psychological Research

Researchers in psychology (including students) must follow the American Psychological Association’s (APA’s) Ethical Principles of Psychologists and Code of Conduct (2010) to protect the rights and welfare of research participants and ensure no harm will come to them. Furthermore, an Institutional Review Board (IRB) committee must review and approve all research studies involving humans and/or animals before they begin. It is the IRB committee’s responsibility to evaluate proposed research studies per the APA’s ethical principles and codes of conduct as well as to assess the possible benefits and risks of the studies.

An effective way to develop your research skills is to analyze sample studies. For this Assignment, you will review brief research descriptions, identify, and address ethical issues, and apply an alternative research methodology.

  • Review again Chapter 1 from the course text.
  • Read Chapter 3 from the course text.
  • Read the American Psychological Association’s Ethical Principles of Psychologists and Code of Conduct: Including 2010 Amendments.

Select one of the following four research studies:

1. A researcher was studying initial interactions between people. While two students were supposedly waiting for an experiment to begin, the researcher covertly videotaped their actions and conversation. Afterward, the researcher told the students about the video recording and gave them the opportunity to have the tape erased.
2. A researcher worked for a time on the production line of a large manufacturing plant. His status as a researcher was unknown to his coworkers. It was not until he was about to leave that he revealed his purpose and identity to his coworkers.
3. To study what types of people are most likely to give money to a stranger, people on city streets were asked for money by an individual who said he had just lost his wallet. No one was ever told that he or she was part of a research project.
4. To study the effects of alcohol on decision making, a graduate student interviewed college students after they had left a campus bar. With a portable breathalyzer, he registered their blood alcohol levels. Although some of them were found to be intoxicated beyond the legal state limits, and many of them were going to be driving home, he did not inform them of their blood alcohol levels.

1. Explain the ethical issues and how the study may have violated principles of ethical behavior.

2. Propose an alternative research design from the assigned Learning Resources that could possibly remedy the identified issues, (e.g., naturalistic observation, simulation study), and explain in detail how the new design would be set up and carried out.

  • What is behavioral research, and why is it conducted?
  • What are the limitations of “everyday science” and intuition for understanding behavior?
  • What is the scientific method, and why do scientists use it?
  • What is the difference between a fact and a value, and how do a scientist's values influence his or her research?
  • What are the goals of basic research and of applied research, and how do the two types of goals relate to each other?
  • What are the goals of descriptive, correlational, and experimental research? What are the advantages and disadvantages of each research approach?
  • What benefits are there to be gained from learning how to evaluate research, conduct it, and think critically about it?
  • What are some of the concerns guiding ethical research?
  • What are the potential psychological threats to participants in behavioral science research projects?
  • What factors may interfere with participants' freedom to choose whether or not to participate in research?
  • What is the function of informed consent?
  • How might a researcher abuse his or her power in the research relationship?
  • When and why is deception used in research?
  • What is debriefing, and how is it used?
  • What procedures do researchers use to ensure that behavioral research is ethical?
  • What procedures do researchers follow to ensure the ethical treatment of animals in behavioral research?

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