Discuss ethical considerations related to research studies at the sociocultural level of analysis. (22)

Discuss (22) – A considered and balanced review, including a range of arguments, factors or hypothesis. Opinions and conclusions presented clearly supported by appropriate evidence.

Ethical guidelines

The need to break guidelines

John Watson – Little Albert (SLT/Classical conditioning)
[A] Investigating the classical conditioning method.
  • A baby, under his parent’s consent, was asked to participate in the classical conditioning experiment.
  • Experimenter exposed Little Albert to a series of white fluffy objects e.g. rats, white rabbits, santa masks etc. as a baseline test.
  • Little Albert showed neutral responses to these stimuli.
  • Little Albert was then placed into a room with some lab rats, his response was neutral.
  • He started playing with the lab rats and did not show any fear.
  • Experimenters then created a loud noise by hitting a metal bar whenever Little Albert touched the rats, Little Albert showed fear.
  • After several pairing of the stimulus, Little Albert showed signs of distress and started crying whenever he saw the lab rats.
  • Same fear was displayed when other white fluffy objects were shown to Little Albert.
  • Classical conditioning was successful.
  • Ecological validity: Low, lab environment.
  • Culture bias: Babies are too young to have any cultural influence.
  • Immoral to evoke fear under lab conditions, unless participants approves to be purposely horrified otherwise.
  • Caused permanent unnecessary mental harm and distress.
  • Welfare of the human participant must always be the paramount consideration of any experiments.

Philip Zimbardo – Stanford Prison Experiment (Conformity/SIT)
[A] Prove that situational factors can affect behaviour.
  • 22 male subjects were selected through personality assessment based on their mental stability, maturity and social ability.
  • Randomly assigned the role of either prisoner or warden.
  • "Prisoners"
  • Signed a consent document that some of their human rights will be suspended for the experiment and that all subjects would receive $15 a day up to 2 weeks.
  • "Arrested" by surprise by real police from their house, taken to a real police station for standard procedures.
  • Driven blindfolded to a prison (set, not a real prison) where they were stripped naked, delouse, and dressed in prisoner uniform.
  • Stayed in the prison for 24 hours a day, followed a schedule of work, rest and meal.
  • "Wardens"
  • Put on warden costumes with the correct props. They worked 8 hours a day, and were given no specific instructions.
  • Asked to keep a reasonable degree of order and were prohibited against any means of physical violence.
  • Experiment was terminated in 6 days, instead of the intended 14 days due to abnormal reactions shown by both prisoners and wardens.
  • "Prisoners"
  • Displayed passivity and dependence. Half the prisoners showed signs of depression, crying, fits of rage, acute anxiety.
  • Due to this reason, they were released early.
  • All but two prisoners would forfeit the money if they could be released early.
  • Experimenters proposed that these behaviours were results of the loss of personal identity, dependency and learned helplessness.
  • "Wardens"
  • Displayed huge enjoyment of power at their disposal, leading towards abusive use of power, dehumanizing the prisoners.
  • Some wardens worked extra time with no extra pay and were disappointed that the experiment was over.
  • They punished the prisoners for no apparent justifications (abusive use of power).
  • Not all wardens displayed aggression, but none opposed other’s use of it.
  • The situation (prison environment) affected all participant’s behaviour.
  • Arguable that the environment of a prison is what causes prisoners to act violently.
  • Supports SIT
  • Displayed the categorisation and development of identity in both groups.
  • Ecological validity: Low, lab environment, overt observation.
  • Prohibition of physical violence limited the generalising ability of the experiment.
  • Experimenters argue that…
  • The functional equivalent of the prison system (setting, costumes etc.) were implemented.
  • Reactions and behaviours of the subjects exceeded the level of “role play”.
  • Calling each other by ID number in private, wardens showed aggression even when they thought they were not being watched.
  • Reliability: Experiment was not repeated until years after, subjects did not act as predicted.
  • Culture bias: only studied subjects from the US.
  • Ethical considerations and issues.
  • Participants signed consent forms, but they had no clear idea of the procedure of the experiment.
  • Induced aggression in subjects.
  • Created discrimination and violence.
  • Gender bias: only male subjects were used.

Stanley Milgram – Study On Obedience (Compliance)
[A] Investigating the effect of authority on compliance and obedience.
  • Subjects were 40 males, age range from 20 to 50, found through newspaper advert.
  • Subjects were led to believe that the experiment was investigating the effect of punishment on learning.
  • They were given the role of the “teacher” through a fixed lottery.
  • They saw the learner (which is an actor) in real life, strapped to a chair connected with an electrode.
  • The experimenter took the subject to another room and told them to apply an electric shock by pressing the button whenever the learner gets a question wrong.
  • The experimenter wore a grey lab coat.
  • The “teacher” was given a test shock of 45 volts.
  • At certain voltages, different vocal feedback was given through a recorded system. After 315 volts, no response was given.
  • 65% of the subjects continued on to the maximum 450 volts.
  • No one stopped before 300 volts.
  • Subjects were observed to show signs of stress (e.g. sweat, tremble, biting their lips).
  • Subjects displayed compliance because of the authority figure (the experimenter in the grey lab coat).
  • Compliance, not conformity. Because it is evident that the subjects did not internalise the idea of giving shock.
  • When subjects were asked to electrocute a puppy, level of obedience increased.
  • Ecological validity: Low, lab environment.
  • Culture bias: Unrepresentative sample, all subjects were from the US.
  • Other researchers replicated the study in other countries.
  • Findings can then be generalised.
  • Caused distress in subjects.
  • They were told “you have no choice but to carry on” but in actual fact subjects had the right to leave.
  • Subjects were deceived to thinking that they were actually giving out electric shocks.
  • They were then debriefed, and showed that the learner was unharmed.
  • Gender bias: Only male subjects used initially. In later replicates, female subjects and “victim” were also used.
  • When a female “victim” was used, level of obedience reduced.