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Psychological research, obedience and ethics
Psychological research, obedience and ethics

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Study 1

The ethics panel received the following proposal:

Study 1

Figure 5

This study is designed to discover what effect peer pressure might have on people's voting behaviour. Phase one of the study will involve adding a question stating 'which party did you vote for at the last election?' to the end of an in-class exam being taken by twenty undergraduate students. Phase two will take place a week later in a scheduled seminar, and consist of asking the same students, one after another, to tell the group as a whole whom they had voted for.

Think about the three ethics principles and how you might expect a psychological study to meet each one, and then decide whether you think this study meets each ethics principle.

Ethics principle 1 - Study 1

Wellbeing, health, values and dignity

a. 

Yes


b. 

No


The correct answer is b.

b. 

This study threatened both the values and the dignity of the participants. UK law protects the right for voting to be secret for a good reason, so asking students how they voted in an exam and also to state this publicly contravenes the values attached to keeping how you voted a confidential matter. Putting students in a position where they might feel obliged either to state how they voted or indeed to lie about this as a result of peer pressure is also likely to have a negative effect on their dignity.


Ethics principle 2 - Study 1

Informed consent

a. 

Yes


b. 

No


The correct answer is b.

b. 

At no point were the students told they were taking part in a research study, so they did not give their consent to participate.


Ethics principle 3 - Study 3

Right to withdraw

a. 

Yes


b. 

No


The correct answer is b.

b. 

At no point were the students told they were taking part in a research study, so they did not realise there was any research to withdraw from.


Question 3

Would you give this study ethical approval?

a. 

Yes


b. 

No


The correct answer is b.

b. 

To be approved a study would need to meet all criteria. If it fails to meet just one, it should not gain approval.


Discussion

As is stated in this course, applying ethical principles is never that straightforward and there are often cases where people have differing opinions. Don't worry if you had different answers; instead concentrate on which aspects of the study we have linked to each of the three ethical principles.