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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.


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

what does Hedonist mean?
Happy Reply
a person whose actions are solely motivated by personal pleasure, without any care about if and how it hurts anyone.
It's the doctrine of Aristippus, that pleasure or happiness is the chief good and chief end of man (Greek- hedone, pleasure).
a person who always seeks pleasure...a person who believes that pleasure is everything
Hedonism, as compared to the sexualvalues of relativism and absolutism, involves sexual behavior based on the pursuit of pleasure without the requirement for love and/or commitment.
in short, sex without feelings.
sex without feelings, just like make up with dolls😂
well, yes, it could involve that, but extreme cases, a person could start violating others so as to satiate his own libido. Sex with dolls and stuff is quite small stuff compared to that. Basically, what pleases them, they do, so are quite dangerous in that sense.
Why do you think red room and stuff exist? for the pleasure of few, but still, for pleasure. Freud indeed was right in pointing out the cause of all evil in the world- sex.
yes but still some people engage themselves in sex without any feeling ...eg.prostitution
@poorvi umm.. that's like saying the people who didn't help the Jews were Nazis, disregarding the fact that their hands were tied, and they could've done otherwise even if they tried to. how many of the prostitutes are true nymphomaniacs? quite a few to none.
But how many were forced to it by circumstances, or even trafficked? many to almost 90%. from homelessness to loans, even drug addiction, that's a major cause as well.
they can't be called hedonists, for they are not. though they could be, if that is, they are nymphomaniacs
you're absolutely right...but how can a person lose the addiction of pleasures ?
enjoying pleasure is a base human characteristic, it's being a slave to them, so much so that you refuse to recognize needs and exercise care of others in front of your own pleasures, that is dangerous and should be rid of.
Christianity tried to curb it, but instead ended up declaring sex in itself wrong. several ways were introduced for this, from Chastity belts to whips for giving in to the evil of the temptation, hell even looking for too long at someone.
again as Freud said, religion tried to kill sex, it didn't die, but became poisonous instead.
yes correct
hey I just love psychology bcz I wanna improve myself through psychology...so can I ?
help can be sought for this, don't, I repeat DON'T try these orthodox methods, they work not
yes you can, start off small, but from the greats, Freud and Jung, you'll know much of psychology by just studying these two
Orthodox methods means ?
yk, trying to completely avoid pleasures, for as Osho said, prohibition becomes invitation. 'No Graffiti Zone' has the most graffiti. write don't peep inside on a door ajar and almost every passerby will peep in. so if you try to completely be void of desires then they'll only grow on you
(was still talking about pleasure and how to get rid of it 😅)
hey..I'm the student of class 11and I'm trying to engage myself more in studies...in simple words I wanna change myself I wanna improve myself ...I wanna be a good girl...plz plzz suggest some tips and how can I change my thinking and life..
that's why I was asking about the pleasure psychology
it'll be even better if you have a philosophical background as well.
yes I have that too...I'm biggest fan of osho and buddha
first things first poorvi, I don't know you, but unless you've hurt someone real real bad, like they couldn't heal, I'll say you ARE a good girl. so with that in mind, how to improve yourself even further? well, if it's studies then it depends on which line of study are you planning to pursue?
but wait who were Freud and Jung
they are Giants in the field of psychology, two most prominent schools are Jungian and Freudian. (Carl Gustav Jung and Sigmund Freud)
I wanna be a doctor and trying to pursue this goal
any specific branch in mind? like cardio or surgery or anything?
yaa oncology .. cancer surgeon bcz I wanna give the treatment to the weak section of our country who can't afford the treatment
ok, so your vocation has been decided for you by your parents. never mind, for it can't be changed and you will probably not agree to this, saying no you personally feel so.
by the way what you do or what you wanna be ?even what is your name
Anyway, the most important thing for you right now will be to not let your mind wander, to properly focus your chakras. I'll advise you to revise your study and sleep schedule so as to include a minimum of ½ hour to 1 hour study a day to max 2½ hours to ౩½ hours.
the name is Ckbite, you can look me up on insta, or Google me
and don't sit at a stretch to study for long, that way disinterest will seep in.
I can study max 4-5 hrs only...omg I can google you 😯😯
break your study hours into little packets of one one hour (or half, your call) and take a ten minute minimum break in between to get your mind back
thanks for suggestion but dear its hard to follow 😌
yes, have written some stuff, not proud of it, yet not ashamed either. though I'll advise you to not to read it, it's kinda instigating.
it ain't. I myself am from both math and science background, PCBM, and followed this tactic scoring not much, yet still a grand 82 percent
which one do you like most bio or maths ? are you doing mbbs ?
hated both equally, got out and into a totally different stream after 12. am not much of a sucker for mainstream stuff
don't study at stretch, but in small small periods. next, get notes from Allen, arrange for them, they really help. next, set small goals, not that you have to finish this whole chapter in a week, but that you have to cover these two pages in two days or something, that way when you'll accomplish -
that, your brain will produce the reward hormones (I forget the name) and you will stay interested and it might even become fun, and kinda challenging
hmm ok I'll try
are you talking about the dopamine ?
don't compare to others, but try and defeat your own time. like I had completed two pages in two days, today I'll try three pages in two days.
seems odd I know, childish even,but that's the way brain works, if it senses youre doing great, it puts in even more effort
after taking break engag in studies again is too difficult
it's easy, mark your last read spot, and when you get back, start from a or two paragraphs before that, so that you can catch the thread once again
after taking breaks mind says "hey no need to do study again...just play and have fun"
that's why set a fix time quota for a day, like if it's 2 hours you Have to study two hours, and it doesn't work in the long run,but for starters you can try the reward system
like if I study this much, I can watch this movie I wanted to. you know, keep your brain interested, as though it's a game, that's how you have to play. mind is a funny thing, but fooling it is quite easy
okay I got you...thanks
no need for that. if you need any other help in future, you can contact me on Facebook or Instagram or Snapchat, the username being the same 'CKBITE'
no need for that. if you need any other help in future, you can contact me on insta or SC, the username being the same 'CKBITE'
may what's the best for you happen
hey I couldn't find your page but can you msg me on i_believe_in_your_dreams...dp is of red coloured and the recent post is of blue colour
Hi. Can we have a discussion on narcissism?
Anindya Reply
ya shoot, you're almost speaking to one.
I feel it happens when a certain person lacks attention so they turn to them self (which is good in some ways) ....I mean Im making a guess but every person has their story 🙏
anything specific? I'm all ears.
Narcissism fr seeking attention?!! U can say they always want attention, but it can't be the the reason
Yeah that's why I mentioned that every person has their story, it varies ik
What abt general narcissism?
i just got out of a relationship with a narcissist 2 months ago. it's more than a person wanting attention, but thats part of it. they want to be center of attention, the one & only. they'll do anything to get it including psychological and physical abuse. in some it comes from childhood.
well, nope. I won't call myself a true blue narcissist, but I just know that I AM better than most of these people around. time and again when a person is downtrodden, his love made fun of, what else can he do, but love himself? that is a narcissist for you, from narcissus (Greek mythology).
Kora true. Good to hear that u got of tht abusive relationship. All the best to u for your coming days
a person in love with his own self, do not mistake it for God complex or anything else, the term has been abused much with time. but it simply means a self obsessed person, he won't give a flying frick about your opinion enough to force you even to respect him. he knows he's the best.
And if he does do that, abusing people, trying to establish dominance, he is NOT just a narcissist (assuming he is also it)
Kora I would like to know if a narcissist develops a compulsive sexual behaviour? If u can pls put some light in this regard
the dictionary meaning of narcissist is: "narcissist n. one who admires oneself; one who is in love with oneself" Just that, being an arsehole and justifying it with the garb of narcissism is the purest BS I've ever heard.
@anindya sexual narcissism, now that narrows down the field. they only care about themselves, so obviously it'll be rough, might border on the line of BDSM in extreme cases, male Superior position will be most likely
love making, would be replaced by just a fulfilment of his own desires. and will be quite charming before, but totally indifferent and cold afterwards
According to research on sex addiction and narcissism, both men and women in the sex- and pornography-addicted population also have narcissistic tendencies.
He'll need to be assured that he's the best sex you've ever had, that he was quite strong, yk, to salve his ego.
hedonist is the accurate term for them though 😅
Define Intelligence.
Emma Reply
The ability to acquire and apply knowledge and skills.
the ability to think rationally,and adapt to the situation
there is no such thing like intelligence ...its a tool of division a comparison for humans to idealise do nothing meaningful
daym @ecstasy the. I don't know how anyone can follow up on that
@ anonymous ....dont get it
Intelligence is level of brain power with the ability to use facts to determine how to deal with a set of situations.
Intelligence can be defined as food for the brain. It gives the brain a great stimuli of energy to function at it's best . The greatest benefit to this resource, it allows you to define every avenue of your life. Example- It can be a defense mechanism from knowledge that hasn't been proven.
what does BS Psychology do? or what jobs are available?
Samwan Reply
Hello guys good morning
Tanam Reply
gud mornin
Good evening, I hope everyone is having a great day! :)
Fine namira
What makes people with sickle cell not fat does the illness damage their body?
Normally, RBCs are shaped like discs, which gives them the flexibility to travel through even the smallest blood vessels. However, with this disease, the RBCs have an abnormal crescent shape resembling a sickle. This makes them sticky and rigid and prone to getting trapped in small vessels
this leads to blood not reaching much to parts, leading to anaemia. and hence them not being able to gain any weight
nice I see
I have a question regarding counselling.
A teenaged girl comes up to a therapist and speaks about her issues that she is having with her mother, for instance, she wants something from her mother ( attention, care and love) that is she is deprived of. How do we counsel her? what do we tell her in such a situation where she cannot directly
convey her needs to her mother.
natural law therapy
first, like, try to get to know how is her conversational relationship with her mother. that if her mother blatantly ignores her, or doesn't pay much attention or what. also try to pry if their relationship is strained or okay okay or good.
your next course of action can only be decided by the answer to this
if her mother is like, not that good a parent, try to bring her in in therapy as well, if she's an okay okay one, have her and the girl sit down and talk in front of you. and if she's a good parent, all you have to do is encourage the girl to talk.
and also talk to the mother explaining​ that a healthy discussion or even a simple heart to heart with children is a must
Alright, thankyou so much. :)
What made psychology be studied under philosophy
fatima Reply
..Cos everything begins with the love of Wisdom
first ,explain what is psychology and philosophy .Then you state and explain the various reasons for which psychology was studied under philosophy.
Then you give a suitable conclusion.
please can anyone help me with different between Cognitive and Personality structure
cognitive deals with mind and metal while personality deals with physical actions
cognitive is nothing but our way of processing the information....were as personality is totally different ....that it relates to our environment....that means how we behave according to our circumstances...
now are u clear
what is psychology
Beatriz Reply
Psychology is the study of soul
scientific study of mind and behavior
a real life example of humanistic model
Alexsus Reply
what is a linear relationship
Happy Reply
directly related. like if one factor changes, so will the other
explain the process of visua sensation
David Reply
Sensation is defined as the stimulation of sense organs Visual sensation is a physiological process which means that it is the same for everyone. We absorb energy such as electro magnetic energy (light) or sound waves by sensory organs such as eyes.
what is selective attention?
Happy what did you say visual sensation is ?
please make your explanation clear for us
you mean you experience sensation by what you see..
I thought it was by what your five senses interpreted
visual has to do with the eyes alone
sensory has to do with all the sense organs ranging from the eyes,nose, skin,tongue and ear
selective attention is focusing on a particular stimulus out of myriads of stimuli
visual sensation in simple terms is standing from far it seems to assume that the trees are emerged but when you get they totally separated
seeing the trees been emerged is the visual sensation.That is my understanding, you can also find out
a woman watch me all time why
Janak Reply
because it is hard to test alot of things in it empiricaly
Ahmed Reply
good Morning, I want someone to give me a lecture on levels of conscious
Tebukoza Reply
why is psyche represented as a butterfly?
Gabriella Reply
Psyche's mythological imagery in ancient art is represented with butterfly wings, amply depicted in pottery as well. ... The metamorphosis of the butterfly inspired many to use butterflies as a symbol of the soul's exit from the body. Thus, the myth of Psyche concomitantly signifies soul and butterf
ok thanks
On what basis do people argue that genes do not set limits on a person's potential?
Shruti Reply
The Nature-Nature Thingy
Nature vs nurture
well, going by Polygenic Hypothesis formulated in a genome-wide association study (GWAS), each (even all) gene(s) affects every complex trait. from physical to even one's mental growth (though it's still debatable).
Like you know, the selfish gene, like genes passed on to generation after generation​; and if a person with a certain gene arrangement pattern meets someone remotely resembling even a part of it, he/she'll automatically behave selflessly towards the other person.
somewhat linking to the idea of soulmates, and Plato's idea of conjoint men and women who were split by God and hence strive to become one yet again. (I know I'm wandering away from psychology here)
But IQ is affected by both genes and environment.
"Other studies at the world-leading Minnesota Center for Twin and Family Research suggest that many of our traits are more than 50% inherited, including obedience to authority, vulnerability to stress, and risk-seeking. "
as for effect of the environment, study of epigenetics shows that how many inherited traits only get “switched on” in certain environments.
BUT, "Various options are pencilled in by our genes, and our life experiences determine which get inked." That is, what gets 'unlocked' depends on our experience and environment factor.
like determining if a person will be introvert or extrovert, by just observing his parents is not enough. though it does contribute a major part.
so, I'd like to go against your question (somewhat) and say, genes do set limitations, but what some genes only 'unlock' under certain circumstances and environment, so they don't limit it totally
hope it helped. @ me (CK) if any doubts or queries remain

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