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1. UNIT PSYA 4 – PSYCHOLOGY: CONTROVERSIES, TOPICS AND APPLICATIONS SECTION A - CONTROVERSIES There are 5 controversial issues. In the examination you will be given…
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  • 1. UNIT PSYA 4 – PSYCHOLOGY: CONTROVERSIES, TOPICS AND APPLICATIONS SECTION A - CONTROVERSIES There are 5 controversial issues. In the examination you will be given questions about 2 of these issues. You must answer 1 question out of these two. This means we must prepare 4 of the issues for the examination. We will prepare the first 4 listed below. 1 Methods of dealing with ethical issues involved in research with human participants 2 Use of non-human animals in psychology 3 Issues of gender bias in psychology 4 Issues of cultural bias in psychology 5 Genetic research in psychology (not to be prepared) SECTION B – TOPICS Details of the content indicate where material must be covered by using the term ‘including’, whereas the term 'e.g.' is used to indicate examples of appropriate material and where examples may also be used. We will answer 2 topics in Section B: 1 on Relationships, and 1 on Adolescence and Adulthood. 1. Relationships 1 Explanations relating to the formation of relationships (e.g. sociobiological explanations, attraction, social exchange). 2 Explanations relating to the dissolution of relationships (e.g. Lee’s model, Duck’s phase model, predisposing factors). 3 Benefits of relationships on psychological well-being (e.g. self-esteem, buffering effects from stress). 4 Research relating to understudied relationships (e.g. homosexual relationships, mediated relationships). 5 Cultural variations in relationships (e.g. intra and inter-cultural variations). 2. Adolescence and Adulthood 1
  • 2. 1 Lifespan theories of development (e.g. Erikson’s ‘Eight ages of man; Levinson’s ‘Seasons of a man’s life; Gould’s ‘Evolution of adult consciousness’). 2 Explanations of Adolescent Identity (e.g. Blos’ psychoanalytic theory; Erikson’s theory of psychosocial development; Marcia’s theory). 3 Conflict during Adolescence including storm and stress and alternative views. 4 Effects of events during Middle adulthood (e.g. marriage, parenthood, divorce). 5 Effects of events during Late adulthood (e.g. retirement, adjustment to old age, bereavement). SECTION C – APPLICATIONS We will answer one question from the applications in Section C. We will answer one question about Sport Psychology 1 Improving motivation in sport (e.g. explanations of motivation and ways of improving motivation). 2 Internal factors affecting sporting performance (e.g. arousal, anxiety, attribution theory). 3 External factors affecting sporting performance (e.g. team membership, audience effects). 4 Effects of exercise on well-being (e.g. effects of physical and mental health). 5 Theories of aggression in sport (e.g. frustration-aggression hypothesis, ethological theory, social-learning theory). 2
  • 3. SECTION A - CONTROVERSIES There are 5 controversial issues. In the examination you will be given questions about 2 of these issues. You must answer 1 question out of these two. This means we must prepare 4 of the issues for the examination. We will prepare the first 4 listed below. 1 Methods of dealing with ethical issues involved in research with human participants 2 Use of non-human animals in psychology 3 Issues of gender bias in psychology 4 Issues of cultural bias in psychology 5 Genetic research in psychology (not to be prepared) 3
  • 4. 1 Methods of dealing with ethical issues involved in research with human participants The British Psychological Society (BPS) is the professional body representing psychologists. All members of the BPS are expected to adhere to the society’s code of conduct which sets out the expected norms of behaviour for psychologists as a whole. The BPS also sets out ethical principles specifically for the conduct of research with human participants, as well as ethical guidelines for the use of animals in research. All of these are contained in the booklet, Code of Conduct, Ethical Principles and Guidelines (1996). Modern ethical principles Among the key principles are: 1) Ethical implications of the research – In all circumstances investigators must consider the ethical implications and psychological consequences for the participants in their research. This means recognising the impact of the research on participants from a range of different ethnic, social and age groups. Often such knowledge can only be obtained from the population from which the participants in the research have been drawn. 2) Consent – Whenever possible, participants should be informed of the objectives of the investigation. They should be told everything which may influence their willingness to participate. Where full disclosure of research aims is not possible – for example, in investigations into conformity – additional steps should be taken (such as debriefing after the investigation) to protect the welfare and dignity of participants. For research involving children or participants who have impairments that limit their understanding so that they are unable to give real consent, consent should be sought from parents or from those in loco parentis. 3) Deception – Withholding information or misleading participants is unacceptable if participants are typically likely to show unease, distress or embarrassment once they have been debriefed. If in doubt, consultation should be sought from those who share the social and cultural 4
  • 5. background of the participants or from ethics committees or from experienced and disinterested colleagues. Participants should never be misled without extremely strong scientific or medical justification. 4) Debriefing – Investigators should provide participants with the necessary information to complete their understanding of the research. They should discuss the experience of participation with participants in order to monitor any unforeseen negative effects or misconceptions. Debriefing does not provide justification for any unethical aspects of the research. 5) Withdrawal from the investigation – Investigators should make it clear to participants that they have the right to withdraw at any stage of the research, regardless of whether any payment or inducement has been offered. Following involvement in the investigation or a debriefing, participants have the right to withdraw retrospectively, requiring that their own data be destroyed. 6) Confidentiality – Identification of participants should not be possible if research is published, and in cases where anonymity cannot be guaranteed, participants should be warned of this before agreeing to participate. 7) Protection of participants – Investigators have a primary responsibility to protect participants from physical and mental harm during the investigation. (In legal terms, an investigator has a duty of care towards his/her participants.) Participants should be asked about any factors which may create a risk in the procedure, such as a pre-existing medical or mental condition, and they must be advised of any special action they should take to avoid risk. 8) Observational research – Studies based upon observation must respect the privacy and psychological well-being of the individuals studied. Unless consent is obtained, observational research is only acceptable in situations where those observed would expect to be observed by strangers. Particular account should be taken of local cultural values. 5
  • 6. Studies highlighting ethical issues The need for ethical guidelines was largely a response to a number of studies which, in retrospect, were considered ethically questionable, mainly because they risked physical and mental harm to the participants. Classical examples include Milgram’s (1974) research into obedience to authority, and Zimbardo’s (1973) prison simulation experiment. In Milgram (1974) approximately two-thirds of the participants, who had been deceived about the nature of the experiment, obeyed the experimenter and administered the highest level of electric shock to the apparent ‘victim’. Zimbardo (1973), originally planned to last two weeks, was abandoned after six days due to the extreme behaviour of the participants. Whilst most of the ‘prisoners’ were relieved when the study was called off, many of the guards were disappointed and actually wanted to continue. These classic studies are often quoted to justify the need for ethical principles and guidelines but several more less controversial studies such as Ainsworth’s ‘Strange Situation’, ‘Bandura’s Bobo Doll’, and even Watson and Raynor’s ‘Little Albert’ can be used to illustrate the need for guidelines to protect participants. Dealing with deception Many studies could not be carried out unless the participants were deceived as to the nature of the investigation. For example, it is difficult to investigate obedience to authority unless we put the participants in a situation where they genuinely believe they are being asked or instructed by authority to behave in a way they would not normally choose to behave. Of course, this makes informed consent impossible. Michael Eysenck (1994) suggests three factors need to be considered when deciding whether or not using deception in an investigation is justified: 1. The less potentially damaging the consequences of deception, the more acceptable it is. 2. Deception is easier to justify in studies that are important in scientific terms than in those that are trivial in nature. 6
  • 7. 3. Deception is more justifiable when there are no alternative, deception free, ways of investigating an issue. Of course, we will find that 1 and 2 may actually contradict each other in some investigations. Research which is important in scientific terms may be exactly the kind of research that needs the greatest amount of deception. For example, we may not approve of Milgram (1974) on ethical grounds but his investigations did provide us with new and valuable insights into a critical area of human behaviour. Controlling the potentially negative impact of deception A number of ways have been suggested to assist in controlling the potentially negative impact of deception. These include presumptive consent and prior general consent.  With presumptive consent, views regarding the acceptability of deception are obtained from a sample of the population to be involved in the study (these people will not participate themselves). For example, an investigator studying the relationship between workload and stress- related in teachers, might invite a number of teachers, who will not be participants, to consider the proposals and procedure of the investigation. If they believe that the deception used is acceptable, then it can be presumed that this will also be the reaction of the participants who are actually take part in the investigation.  With prior general consent, all potential participants are contacted and asked if they would be willing to take part in the research even though they will be misled about its purpose. Only those agree to this condition are asked to participate. The importance of debriefing is obvious in studies involving deception. There are two aims in debriefing participants: firstly, to ensure they leave the study in the same state they entered the study; and secondly, to provide them with sufficient information from the experience so that it has some educational value for them. However, this is not to say that debriefing justifies unethical practices. It does not. Nor does it mean that debriefing is only important in studies involving deception. Debriefing is an essential component in all studies and should be an integral part of the way in which any investigation is carried out. 7
  • 8. Conclusions Psychologists operate within a rapidly changing world, and it is crucial that ethical guidelines and regulations constantly adapt to these changes. Both psychology itself and society’s conception of what is ethical are undergoing changes, for example, consider the moral attitude to homosexuality over the last 20 years. For instance, as knowledge of the brain and the genetic code increases, psychology is becoming increasingly ‘high-tech’ (involving brain-scanning technology, for example) and increasingly allied to medicine and biology (the brain is a biological organ that can malfunction). The more this happens, the bigger become the ethical issues. For example: • Ought we to give mind-changing drugs to ‘hyperactive’ children with ADHD? • Under what conditions should laser surgery of the brain be allowed? (It is increasingly used in extreme cases of anorexia, for instance.) • Is it ethical to screen young children in order to discover which ones are in danger of becoming psychopaths? These are huge ethical questions, and it is arguable that current psychology guidelines do not adequately deal with them. Would you give the maximum (and potentially deadly) 450-volt shock in this situation? Nearly everyone denies that they personally would do any such thing. Psychiatrists from a leading medical school predicted that only one person in a thousand would go all the way to 450 volts. In fact, two thirds of the participants went ‘all the way’ and ‘terminated’ the ‘learner’. 8
  • 9. Methods of dealing with ethical issues involved in research with human participants - KEY NOTES 1. The British Psychological Society (BPS) sets out the expected norms of behaviour for psychologists as a whole. 2. The BPS also sets out ethical principles as well as ethical guidelines in the booklet, Code of Conduct, Ethical Principles and Guidelines (1996). Modern ethical principles 1. Among the key principles are: 1) Researches must consider ethical implications of their research 2) Consent 3) Deception 4) Debriefing 5) Withdrawal from the investigation 6) Confidentiality 7) Protection of participants 8) Observational research Studies highlighting ethical issues 1. The need for ethical guidelines was largely a response to a number of studies because they risked physical and mental harm to the participants 2. Classical examples: Milgram’s (1974) research into obedience to authority, and Zimbardo’s (1973) prison simulation experiment 3. Several more less controversial studies such as Ainsworth’s ‘Strange Situation’, ‘Bandura’s Bobo Doll’, and even Watson and Raynor’s ‘Little Albert’ can be used to illustrate the need for guidelines to protect participants Dealing with deception 1. Many studies could not be carried out unless the participants were deceived as to the nature of the investigation. Of course, this makes informed consent impossible. 9
  • 10. 2. Michael Eysenck (1994) suggests three factors: 1) the less potentially damaging the consequences… 2) important in scientific terms 3) no alternative, deception free, ways of investigating an issue 3. But… Research which is important in scientific terms may be exactly the kind of research that needs the greatest amount of deception. Controlling the potentially negative impact of deception 1. presumptive consent - views regarding the acceptability of deception are obtained from a sample of the population to be involved in the study (these people will not participate themselves). 2. prior general consent - only those agree to being misled are asked to participate. 3. debriefing - two aims in debriefing participants: (1) leave the participants as you found them, and (2) ensure the experience was educational for the participants 4. debriefing does not justify unethical practices; debriefing should be used in all investigations (not only where deception is involved); debriefing should always be part of the standard procedures in psychology research Conclusions 1. it is crucial that ethical guidelines and regulations constantly adapt to changes 2. for example, the impact of technology on psychology research – braining-scanning, understanding the genetic code, the development of behaviour-altering drugs 3. huge ethical questions, and it is arguable that current psychology guidelines do not adequately deal with them. 10
  • 11. 2: THE USE OF ANIMALS IN RESEARCH Can the use of animals in research be justified? Arguments concerning the use of animals in psychology research relate to both practical and ethical issues. So, for example, someone opposing animal research may argue that it is ethically wrong because animals are our equals and should be treated as such. They may also raise practical objections to animal research pointing out that conclusions reached in animal research may simply not apply to humans. They may also point out that most animal research is carried out in laboratories, experimental environments, so the conclusions may have limited ecological validity. Clearly there are ethical and practical arguments on both sides of the debate. THE ETHICAL DEBATE Jeffrey Gray v Peter Singer Some people would argue that in certain circumstances subjecting an animal to psychological or physical pain is justifiable if we are going to learn something important about animal or human behaviour from the experiment. This is the relative point of view. Others would argue that it is never justifiable to inflict pain on an animal in the name of research designed only to explore human behaviour. This is the absolute point of view. A strong supporter in the use of animals in psychological research is Jeffrey Gray (1987). Gray accepts using animals to the benefit of humans does confront us with an ethical dilemma – to use animals in research or not to use animals in research. Gray suggests that when faced with such a dilemma it becomes necessary to weigh the suffering of the animals against the amount of human suffering that will be reduced by carrying out this research. In other words, Gray suggests psychologists must carry out a cost-benefit analysis to discover if the benefits to humans outweigh the cost of suffering to the animals used in the experiments. Gray believes that we owe a special duty to members of our own species and it is therefore acceptable to use animals in research if humans will benefit from the research. For Gray, the difficulty comes in trying to assess/measure and compare degrees of suffering with the benefits for mankind. This is often 11
  • 12. difficult because the benefits of a lot of research are not usually immediate, and a lot of experimentation on animals has to go on before human applications are made. Gray acknowledges that there will be a point where the degree of suffering inflicted upon the animals is too great to be worth avoiding lesser suffering to people. The difficulty faced by scientists and ethical committees is in deciding exactly where that point is. In other words, at what point does the suffering caused to the animals outweigh the possible benefits to human beings? Peter Singer (1991), however, accuses Jeffrey Gray (1987) of speciesism (species-ism), which means discriminating against and exploiting animals simply because they belong to a different species. Singer argues that there can be no justification for inflicting harm upon another creature (whether human or non- human), regardless of any benefits such harm might generate. Whereas Gray accepts that the suffering of animals can be justified, Singer argues that if we are to accept the basic moral principle of equality, this requires that the suffering of any one being (human or non-human)must be counted equally with the suffering of any other being. Singer argues that any creature which can be described as sentient (any creature which has the capacity to suffer or to experience enjoyment or happiness) deserves equal consideration. Singer (1993) has gone as far as to describe animal experiments for the benefit of humans as a form of racism: “Human speciesists do not accept that pain is as bad when it is felt by pigs or mice as when it is felt by humans.” This view is also held by Ryder (1991) who advocated a move to ‘sentientism’, with sentiency (the capacity to suffer or feel enjoyment) as the basis on which we make our ethical decisions. Conclusion Regardless of whether we l
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