Ethics in Research

Essay by raveblossomA+, April 2006

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Rarely has the opportunity for research and understanding of human behaviors been taken to such an extreme that the ethics of the study are discussed for hundreds of years. Haney, Banks, and Zimbardo's (1973) study unlocks a Pandora's box of questions pertaining to the serious effects roles have on the human psyche and the level of aggression displayed. In this study, undergraduates are placed in a simulated prison and labeled as guards and prisoners while being video recorded to observe the effects of these roles on behavior. After only six days the study had to be terminated because of the serious reactions taking place in all of the participants (Haney, 1973). The severity of the situation has caused much debate over the ethics concerning experimental research in psychological studies including weather the long-term scientific discoveries outweigh the intense psychological effects being inflicted on the participants. Also intensely disputed is the harsh punishment of prisons for individuals that may not have committed a crime that justifies this style of sentencing or this type of severe reprimanding.

The aggregate principles of scientific research include the fundamental necessity of following a code of ethics so that experimental research in the field of psychology may prosper for all of human existence, as well as for all scientific fields.

One methodological aspect of the study that is ethically questionable is the detaining process for the participants who were chosen to be prisoners. These participants were arrested by Palo Alto City Police with handcuffs and painstakingly searched no matter where they happened to be (on campus or at home) and were "charged" with either suspicion of burglary or armed robbery. (Haney, 1973). The psychological embarrassment that this detainment process could cause from the start of the experiment is not in accordance with the minimal risk that...