PSY2 – Research Methods: Lesson 11


PSY2 RM PowerpointTeachers or students who want the original PPT please tweet @psychopepper

Learning Objectives

  • To KNOW and UNDERSTAND what the difference is between ethical guidelines and ethical issues is in Psychology.
  • To APPLY techniques to deal with ethical issues, such as debriefing, retrospective consent, presumptive consent, ethics committees and right to withdrawal.
  • To be able to EVALUATE the appropriateness of these techniques.

Lesson Outline:


  1. To reflect on current understanding of the word ‘Ethics’ and discuss the differences and similarities in Sociology and RE.
  2. To reflect on the Middlemist (personal space in urinals) study for ethics and discuss perceived problems with the study on ethical ground.
  3. To compare and contrast to Laud Humphreys.
  4. To read through the ethical guidelines in booklet.
  5. To complete table of ethical issues in booklet, describing the issues researchers face in abiding by the guidelines of consent, deception and protection.
  6. To complete table of ethical issues in booklet, by adding the possible ways we can try and overcome these issues.
  7. To complete table of ethical issues in booklet, by evaluating whether these ways truly to overcome the issues.
  8. To look at the studies given and perform a cost/benefit analysis.
  9. To attempt a debreif question

Content Recap:

Ethical Guideline – Consent: Whenever possible, the investigator should inform all participants of the objectives of the investigation. The investigators should inform the participants of all aspects of the research or intervention that might influence their willingness to participate. The payment of participants must not be used to induce them to risk harm beyond their normal life style.

Ethical Issue – Consent: Difficult to obtain informed consent because often participants aren’t told the aims of the research to prevent demand characteristics. Can be overcome by offering Debrief participants – tell them the aims of the research after the study. Asking them if you can still use their data (retrospective consent). Or by using an alternative such as Presumptive Consent – gain informed consent from a group of people similar to the participants and then presume the actual participants would also agree to the study.

Ethical Guideline – Deception: Withholding information or misleading participants is unacceptable if the participants are likely to show unease once debriefed. Intentional deception of the participants over the purpose and general nature of the investigation should be avoided whenever possible.

Ethical Issue – Deception: Certain information is often withheld from participants to avoid demand characteristics. Deception means that participants can not give informed consent. Deception can lead to Psychologists being seen as untrustworthy. Can be over come by offering participant a Debrief – explain how and why they were deceived and give them the opportunity to discuss their feelings. The decision to deceive is also governed by Ethics Committees who can weigh up the costs (to the participants) against the benefits (of the study) .

Ethical Guideline – Debriefing: In studies where the participants are aware that they have taken part in an investigation, the researcher should provide all necessary information about the investigation to complete the participants understanding/monitor any unforeseen negative effects.

Ethical Guideline – Withdrawal from the investigation: Investigators should make plain to participants their right to withdraw from the research at any time and require that their own data be destroyed.

Ethical Guideline – Confidentiality: During an investigation all information obtained about a participant is confidential unless specified by the law or agreed in advance.

Ethical Guideline – Protection of participants: Investigators have a primary responsibility to protect participants from physical and mental harm during the investigation. Normally the risk of harm must be no greater than in ordinary life.

Ethical Issue – Protection of participants: Difficult to predict the outcomes of the research to guarantee protection from harm. Need to distinguish between short-term and long-term harm. The effects of this can be overcome by Debriefing the participants so they can deal with effects of the study. If needed the research study must be stopped. In addition offer participants the right to withdraw.

Ethical Guideline – Observational research: Studies that are based upon observation must respect the privacy and psychological well being of the individuals studied. Observational research is only acceptable in situations where those being observed would expect to be observed by strangers or individuals give their consent to be observed.

If you would like to access PsychoPepper’s Glossary of Terms please click here

Study Notes (TBC):

If you would like to download a set of study notes for this lesson, you can do so here. If you would like access to the original word file please tweet @psychopepper


I would suggest that you have a copy of one of the textbooks which will allow you to read around the subject matter, pre-read ahead of lessons or even take extra notes/practise questions afterwards. I would recommend the following (you do not need to replicate books, one of each type is plenty!)

Extra ReadingElephants on Acid or Hippo Eats Dwarf

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