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By the end of this section, you will be able to:
  • Discuss how research involving human subjects is regulated
  • Summarize the processes of informed consent and debriefing
  • Explain how research involving animal subjects is regulated

Today, scientists agree that good research is ethical in nature and is guided by a basic respect for human dignity and safety. However, as you will read in the feature box, this has not always been the case. Modern researchers must demonstrate that the research they perform is ethically sound. This section presents how ethical considerations affect the design and implementation of research conducted today.

Research involving human participants

Any experiment involving the participation of human subjects is governed by extensive, strict guidelines designed to ensure that the experiment does not result in harm. Any research institution that receives federal support for research involving human participants must have access to an institutional review board (IRB) . The IRB is a committee of individuals often made up of members of the institution’s administration, scientists, and community members ( [link] ). The purpose of the IRB is to review proposals for research that involves human participants. The IRB reviews these proposals with the principles mentioned above in mind, and generally, approval from the IRB is required in order for the experiment to proceed.

A photograph shows a group of people seated around tables in a meeting room.
An institution’s IRB meets regularly to review experimental proposals that involve human participants. (credit: modification of work by Lowndes Area Knowledge Exchange (LAKE)/Flickr)

An institution’s IRB requires several components in any experiment it approves. For one, each participant must sign an informed consent form before they can participate in the experiment. An informed consent    form provides a written description of what participants can expect during the experiment, including potential risks and implications of the research. It also lets participants know that their involvement is completely voluntary and can be discontinued without penalty at any time. Furthermore, the informed consent guarantees that any data collected in the experiment will remain completely confidential. In cases where research participants are under the age of 18, the parents or legal guardians are required to sign the informed consent form.

While the informed consent form should be as honest as possible in describing exactly what participants will be doing, sometimes deception is necessary to prevent participants’ knowledge of the exact research question from affecting the results of the study. Deception involves purposely misleading experiment participants in order to maintain the integrity of the experiment, but not to the point where the deception could be considered harmful. For example, if we are interested in how our opinion of someone is affected by their attire, we might use deception in describing the experiment to prevent that knowledge from affecting participants’ responses. In cases where deception is involved, participants must receive a full debriefing    upon conclusion of the study—complete, honest information about the purpose of the experiment, how the data collected will be used, the reasons why deception was necessary, and information about how to obtain additional information about the study.

Ethics and the tuskegee syphilis study

Unfortunately, the ethical guidelines that exist for research today were not always applied in the past. In 1932, poor, rural, black, male sharecroppers from Tuskegee, Alabama, were recruited to participate in an experiment conducted by the U.S. Public Health Service, with the aim of studying syphilis in black men ( [link] ). In exchange for free medical care, meals, and burial insurance, 600 men agreed to participate in the study. A little more than half of the men tested positive for syphilis, and they served as the experimental group (given that the researchers could not randomly assign participants to groups, this represents a quasi-experiment). The remaining syphilis-free individuals served as the control group. However, those individuals that tested positive for syphilis were never informed that they had the disease.

While there was no treatment for syphilis when the study began, by 1947 penicillin was recognized as an effective treatment for the disease. Despite this, no penicillin was administered to the participants in this study, and the participants were not allowed to seek treatment at any other facilities if they continued in the study. Over the course of 40 years, many of the participants unknowingly spread syphilis to their wives (and subsequently their children born from their wives) and eventually died because they never received treatment for the disease. This study was discontinued in 1972 when the experiment was discovered by the national press (Tuskegee University, n.d.). The resulting outrage over the experiment led directly to the National Research Act of 1974 and the strict ethical guidelines for research on humans described in this chapter. Why is this study unethical? How were the men who participated and their families harmed as a function of this research?

A photograph shows a person administering an injection.
A participant in the Tuskegee Syphilis Study receives an injection.

Research involving animal subjects

Many psychologists conduct research involving animal subjects. Often, these researchers use rodents ( [link] ) or birds as the subjects of their experiments—the APA estimates that 90% of all animal research in psychology uses these species (American Psychological Association, n.d.). Because many basic processes in animals are sufficiently similar to those in humans, these animals are acceptable substitutes for research that would be considered unethical in human participants.

A photograph shows a rat.
Rats, like the one shown here, often serve as the subjects of animal research.

This does not mean that animal researchers are immune to ethical concerns. Indeed, the humane and ethical treatment of animal research subjects is a critical aspect of this type of research. Researchers must design their experiments to minimize any pain or distress experienced by animals serving as research subjects.

Whereas IRBs review research proposals that involve human participants, animal experimental proposals are reviewed by an Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee (IACUC)    . An IACUC consists of institutional administrators, scientists, veterinarians, and community members. This committee is charged with ensuring that all experimental proposals require the humane treatment of animal research subjects. It also conducts semi-annual inspections of all animal facilities to ensure that the research protocols are being followed. No animal research project can proceed without the committee’s approval.

Summary

Ethics in research is an evolving field, and some practices that were accepted or tolerated in the past would be considered unethical today. Researchers are expected to adhere to basic ethical guidelines when conducting experiments that involve human participants. Any experiment involving human participants must be approved by an IRB. Participation in experiments is voluntary and requires informed consent of the participants. If any deception is involved in the experiment, each participant must be fully debriefed upon the conclusion of the study.

Animal research is also held to a high ethical standard. Researchers who use animals as experimental subjects must design their projects so that pain and distress are minimized. Animal research requires the approval of an IACUC, and all animal facilities are subject to regular inspections to ensure that animals are being treated humanely.

Personal application questions

Take a few minutes to think about all of the advancements that our society has achieved as a function of research involving animal subjects. How have you, a friend, or a family member benefited directly from this kind of research?

Got questions? Get instant answers now!

Questions & Answers

Dissociative fugue has been linked tosevere stress, which might be the result of traumatic events -- such as war, abuse, accidents, disasters, or extreme violence -- that the person hasexperienced or witnessed.. im just googleing it so im not sure i can explain much better... ill do more research....why is it that your asking? May i ask?
Skylar Reply
did some messages disappear?
Eleni
this just pops up in my notifications and i find it very interesting but cant find any way to navigate back to it
Eleni
ya same keeps happening to me a chat messege popped up earlier somebody asking what a fugue state was and i had googled it and wrote back but once i exited the app i can find a way back to the chat...
Skylar
So anyway... Dissociative fugue, formerly fugue state or psychogenic fugue, is a dissociative disorder and a rare psychiatric disorder characterized by reversible amnesia for personal identity, including the memories, personality, and other identifying characteristics of individuality.
Skylar
to get back without using the notification you have to remember what section the comments were on. I remembered it was about dissociative fugue so I went into psychological disorders and then into dissociative disorders and scrolled to the bottom. hope that helps
Matt
hoping someone messeges back from the other chat so it will pop up in my notifications again
Skylar
thank you!
Skylar
it came up on a quiz and i hadnt heard it before. thankyou for your response. i appreciate it.
jody
your welcome
Skylar
that happened to me to.. weird
jody
Yeah Skylar.. I never hered of this I am looking into.. as I had and slightly do now.. my bloods have come up so back to the doctors for underactive my t4 are off scale high.. educating your self helps u understand your body and state of mind memorys .thanks
Rachel
True. Good luck! No problem im glad i could help someone.
Skylar
Yeah.. thanks you again.. u singe my thought process for the better
Rachel
If humans have evolved biologically [like their skulls,jaws etc],so how can we apply animal psychology to humans? They must have evolved their minds...even one exception is enough to contradict....
abid Reply
yes
Petros
do you have suggestions for learning Darwin's theory of evolution....beginner+interactive
abid
what's the fugue state
jody Reply
is this a private messege or a chat room? i didnt even know you could messege on this app...
Skylar
I'm confused
Hailey
same
Manav
me too
davie
Same here. Not satisfactory user interface here.
Swati
hi
Melandi
Dissociative fugue, formerly fugue state or psychogenic fugue, is a dissociative disorder and a rare psychiatric disorder characterized by reversible amnesia for personal identity, including the memories, personality, and other identifying characteristics of individuality. Thestate can last days,
Skylar
months or longer
Skylar
skyler can you please elaborate it ?
ecstasy
i would say careful whats said. not private
jody
skylar i got u.
Eleni
thanks finally figured out how the chat thing works... anyway im really just googling this but i will do more research about i had heard the word before but never looked it up so this is very interesting...
Skylar
well. Dissociation is a mental process that causes a lack of connection in a person's thoughts, memory and sense of identity. ... A severe and more chronic form of dissociation is seen in the disorder Dissociative Identity Disorder, once called Multiple Personality Disorder, and other Dissociative 
Skylar
disorders
Skylar
Dissociation may affect a person subjectively in the form of “made” thoughts, feelings, and actions. These are thoughts or emotions seemingly coming out of nowhere, or finding oneself carrying out an action as if it were controlled by a force other than oneself
Skylar
what diagnosis or treatment would that need? and can't it be a sideeffect of depression, MDD etc?
Eleni
if anyone needs a first hand account I can provide one. I suffer with severe combat PTSD and struggle intensely with dissociation. Episodes can last a few minutes, days or weeks as recorded by my family ( care givers)
Matt
Symptoms and signs of dissociative disorders include: Significant memory loss of specific times, people and events Out-of-body experiences, such as feeling as though you are watching a movie of yourself
Skylar
Mental health problems such as depression, anxiety and thoughts of suicide A sense of detachment from your emotions, or emotional numbness A lack of a sense of self-identity
Skylar
Dissociative disorders are managed through various therapies including: Psychotherapies such as cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT) Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR)
Skylar
Medications such as antidepressants can treat symptoms of related conditions
Skylar
The diagnosis of either Dissociative Amnesia. Depersonalization disorder. Dissociative identity disorder. 
Skylar
does the altered state link directly to DID? is it a character or auto-pilot?
Eleni
im not sure how to word that to research it can u explain that question a bit more or differently?
Skylar
what is memory
Khushbu Reply
what is the meaning of memory
Khushbu
what is the meaning of memory?
Khushbu
what is the meaning of memory?
Khushbu
cognitive process whereby we remember past experiences
Annie
to aid in survival
Eleni
Storing information about people, places, and experiences. Both good and bad, in order to recall and make decisions.
andrew
Memory is the process by which we encode ,store, and retrieve information from the environment through different sense organs.
aijaz
the encryption-decryption mechanism of our psychophysical experiences
juan
can anyone suggest me good coaching in Indore MP India for m.a entrance of du psychology
SAMKIT Reply
How can one diagnose a patient with a mental disorder such as schizophrenia?
Kutwal Reply
Making the Diagnosis. To get an official diagnosi of schizophrenia, your loved one has to show at least two of the following symptom most of the time for a month, and some mental disturbance over six months: Delusions (false beliefs that the person won't give up, even when they get proof that they'r
Khajiit
they're not ture)
Khajiit
Can sombody write me here about Pinoccio in psychodynamic perspective?
Amina Reply
what is the nature and nurture perspective of personality?
Khan Reply
are there significant differences between methamphetamine and it's long term effects on male cognitive behavioral and function versus female?
Shiloh Reply
effects will be the same( male & female)
Smith
tell me more
baby
no. it's much worse on females. almost s complete polar switch
cody
show me ans fast plzzz
Khushbu
please is there any difference between abnormal behaviour and normal behaviour?
Ayodele Reply
hm
sheere
yes abnormal behavior is "not normal ", actions in society's eyes. an example of abnormal behavior (I remember from a textbook) ; a man who runs around frantically in a grocery store licking strangers'(women's) shoes because when he was a baby his mom would tickle his feet/give them special attentio
Peter
yes there is a difference between abnormal and normal behaviour... This is simply because abnormal behaviour is deviating from the normal behaviour of the society while normal behaviour is obeying the moral standards in the society.
Emmanuel
how about disorders? like, always having a tantrums and irrational most of the time?
Jheannalyn
a behavior becomes pathological when 1. there is a before and after : you can see a real change of behavior/cognition or 2. behavior is pathological when it makes yourself or others suffer
Perle
what is difference between disease and disorder
Shahab
disease demand medicin but disorder demands care plus medicin
Zeeshan
I think the concept of normal and abnormal behavior in general is not much of psychological concept but more of sociological concept. A behavior or act in itself is not normal or abnormal. How society perceives that specific behavior, that's what decides what's normal.
Juveriya
For instance, gay marriage is considered normal where homosexuality is legalized. Where it isn't legalized, its abnormal.
Juveriya
So there cannot be an absolute answer for your question
Juveriya
well abnormality is pretty much considered in popular society which is something of a correlation of psycholigical perspective reflected through activity... something abstract... or non trending or precedented. or maybe something disturbing or atypical for people in their respective birth cohorts.
Geoffrey
please what are the schools of thought in psychology
Jennifer
if I told a girl that I will marry her how will she takes it when am to rate it in percentages
dauda
structuralism,functionalism,gestaltalism etc
aijaz
what about Diathesis stress model ?
aijaz
What is the difference between motivation and goal?
vishal Reply
goal is what you want to accomplish. motivation is what drives you to achieve it
Tay
motivation is ambitious and a goal is a ambition
Alivia
But Motivation is just stay there for only short time
Manish
goal is our destination and motivation is a vehicle to reach goal
pradeep
motivation is the One person improved in self development another person advices......... goal is achievement at one of the life.....
thangaraj
motivation is for our personality development thing but goal is our whole personality.
Zeeshan
but its should be more remember without motivation no life no goal .
Zeeshan
it's like this
Tay
if my goal is to get my degree. then me wanting a better job is my motivation. ultimately family
Tay
Motivation is the vehicle we use to reach our goal.
Zachary
Please wat r the schools of psychology
Jennifer
i want the outline of it,its methodology
Jennifer
hi guys can someone help me how can I over or stress ?
Folet
Jennifer I need to take my own advice however stress relief is something that is done through catharsis which in my estimation is defined as a physical or mental activity used as therapy... that can include, yoga, meditation, sex, physical activity like a sport or martial art practice or sometimes .
Geoffrey
the schools of psych I have no clue about
Geoffrey
If you want to be something ,that we can say you have goal.But you will never be that without enough effort,if you getting accurate rewards from your surrounding as accepting you than before when you are trying to be something.that we can say motivation.it may be in the form of acceptance and suport
Hot
motiVation is the part of goal . but it has a backbone value for goal .with out motivation wo can not Think about our aim of life, our goals .
Zeeshan
how do you get motivation? I'm such a lax person
Alexsus
can anyone help me we have a school in a third world country the kids are unable to learn, how can we help them motivate?
Cesaire
make it a game , if it's a 3rd world country then personal hygiene supplies would be a good prize to win
Maria
Maria can you explain that a little more
Cesaire
make them a set goal of so many pages to read or assigments to accomplish and go buy soap, toothpaste and toothbrush or even Candy and put it in front of the class so everyone can see the prizes and it will motivate them to finish first to get an award
Maria
ok
Cesaire
ok Maria
Cesaire
Motivation - reason or reasons for acting or behaving in a particular way. Goal - The object of a person's ambition or effort; an aim or desired result.
andrew
what is mutation?
Amaya Reply
What is mindfulness
rahul
mindfulness means to be aware of the present
Agnieszka
meaning that you are totally focussing on the present...and living in the moment
Agnieszka
also present variables
Carl
hello guys
Folet
can someone help with few answers ?
Folet
hi what is all about ?
Folet Reply
The theory of evolution and its natural selection is a given trait by respond it is also classical conditioning it is a given trait that makes humans more unique than any other species of animals plants or an the theory o the Big Bang is a spontaneous person and has expanded ev we do not know that m
Ryan Reply
hi
Cesaire
hi
yugandhar
behaviors are most successful in treating what?
Cody Reply
mental health disorders
Joyce
fears and phobias.
abid
life management (social, economical, financial etc)
ASHISH
low self-esteem
Sirumbye
patients
Alameen

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Source:  OpenStax, Psychology. OpenStax CNX. Feb 03, 2015 Download for free at https://legacy.cnx.org/content/col11629/1.5
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