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Case Study 1

Please read each case study and answer the questions that follow. Submit your responses to the Dropbox.

Please read each case study and answer the questions that follow.

A group of researchers were interested in studying placebo effects of medication on schizophrenic symptoms. Placebo effects are psychological effects in which symptoms seem to improve with a non-active medication. That is, people think they are getting better because the medication is supposed to make them feel better. The researchers wanted to determine if the effects of the routine medication is any different from a sugar pill. The researchers set up an agreement with a local mental hospital. Schizophrenic patients were randomly assigned to the placebo versus routine medication groups. Patients were given the placebo or routine medication daily for 5 days. The researchers recorded the symptoms of the patients over those 5 days. After the 5 days, all patients returned to their normal regimen. The patients were not told that they had been given a different medication for the course of the study. The patients’ families were also not informed of the participation in the study.

1. Was informed consent obtained? Is informed consent necessary? Why or why not?

2. Were the participants deceived about the true nature of the experiment? If so, was there a good reason to deceive participants?

3. Were the participants debriefed? If not, should they have been debriefed?

4. Was confidentiality breeched in any way?

5. Are there any other questionable ethical practices? Pay special attention to the APA Code of Ethics and Saint Leo University’s Core Values.

6. What, if anything, did the researchers do correctly?

A researcher is interested in the effects of caffeine on memory. She is also interested in how these effects may differ for different age groups. She chooses to examine 15 year olds, 25 year olds, 35 year olds, and 45 year olds. She asks each person to sign an informed consent form explaining that this study is interested in examining age and memory. Each participant is randomly assigned to one of 3 conditions: no caffeine, 2 cups of coffee, or 4 cups of coffee. Following consumption of the coffee, participants are asked to look at a list of words and then attempt to recall as many words on the list after a 10 minute break. Following the study, she explained to the participants what she was interested in and what she hoped to find. Later, she was asked by a colleague if a friend had participated in the study. The researcher told her colleague that yes the person had participated and had a really bad memory even without any caffeine.

1. Was informed consent obtained? Is informed consent necessary? Why or why not?

2. Were the participants deceived about the true nature of the experiment? If so, was there a good reason to deceive participants?

3. Were the participants debriefed? If not, should they have been debriefed?

4. Was confidentiality breeched in any way?

5. Are there any other questionable ethical practices?Pay special attention to the APA Code of Ethics and Saint Leo University’s Core Values.

6. What, if anything, did the researchers do correctly?

Intro to Ethics

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Research Ethics: What Are They

  • Definition-A set of guidelines
  • Ethical Concerns
  • Relationship between Science and Society
  • Government funding of scientific research
  • Congressional influence on which studies are funded
  • Corporate funding of scientific research

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Research Ethics: What Are They

  • Professional Issues
  • Scientific Misconduct
  • Faking data
  • Other less serious issues as failing to present data or changing the design to meet pressure from a funding source
  • Developing an institutional culture of ethical behavior best way of combating this.
  • Treatment of Research Participants

APA Code of Ethics

  • General Principles
  • to guide and inspire psychologists towards the very highest ideals of the profession
  • Standards
  • establish specific rules of conduct

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Ethical Standards for Research

  • APA code of ethics— 10 guiding principles to direct behavior of researchers
  • Issues to consider when conducting research
  • Institutional approval must be obtained
  • Informed consent
  • Dispensing with it informed consent
  • Minors—need to obtain their assent
  • Passive versus active consent

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General Principles

  • Beneficence and Risk vs. Benefits
  • constantly weigh the costs/benefits of the research
  • Risks include physical, emotional, social risks
  • Fidelity and Responsibility
  • responsibility to society
  • Integrity
  • being extremely honest in all aspects of research
  • Justice
  • treat everyone with fairness, avoid bias
  • Respect for People’s Rights and Dignity
  • protecting the rights of those involved in research

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Guidelines for Research with Humans

  • Institutional Review Board (IRB)
  • At least 5 members with varying backgrounds and expertise.
  • Scientists and nonscientists, at least 1 person not affiliated with the institution.
  • Reviews proposals to protect rights and welfare of human participants.

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Guidelines for Research with Humans

  • Informed Consent
  • Documented description of the research project before participation
  • Briefly describes purpose of the study
  • Describes potential risks, discomforts, adverse effects
  • Told that they may withdraw at any time without penalty
  • Written informed consent is essential when participants are exposed to MORE THAN MINIMAL RISK
  • harm or discomfort experienced is not greater than what they might experience in daily lives or during routine physical/psychological tests.
  • If risks are more than minimal, individuals are considered to be “at risk.”
  • When individuals are at risk, researchers are ethically obligated to protect participants’ welfare.
  • Research that places participants at risk should not be carried out if there are alternative methods available that have lower risk.
  • Informed consent is not necessary when researchers observe public behavior.

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Guidelines for Research with Humans

  • Confidentiality
  • One way of reducing social risk
  • Data should be collected so that no identifiable aspects can be traced to any one individual
  • Assign participant numbers to data (No names or SS#’s)
  • “confidential” is NOT the same as “anonymous”

— responses are anonymous when individuals do not provide any identifying information.

  • Confidentiality is a special problem in Internet research, even though participants perceive their responses to be anonymous.

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Guidelines for Research with Humans

  • Privacy
  • is the right of individuals to decide how information about them is communicated to others.
  • Researcher should explain to participants the ways in which their information will be protected and kept confidential.
  • Informed consent is not required when researchers observe people’s behavior in public settings.

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Privacy (continued)

  • 3 major dimensions should be considered when trying to decide whether behavior is public or private:
  • Sensitivity of the information

— more sensitive information is typically regarded as more private (e.g., sexual practices, religious beliefs)

  • Setting of the information

— in public settings, people give up a certain degree of privacy (e.g., sporting events, concerts)

  • Method of dissemination of the information

— sensitive information should be reported in ways so that specific individuals cannot be identified (e.g., group averages)

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Guidelines for Research with Humans

  • Deception – when info is withheld or when participants are intentionally misinformed about aspect of research.
  • Pros: Why do we deceive?
  • Allows researchers to study individuals’ natural behavior.
  • Allows opportunities to investigate behaviors & mental processes not easily studied using nondeceptive methods.

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  • Deception—refers to deceit
  • Types
  • Active—deception by commission
  • Passive—deception by omission
  • Type of studies in which it raises ethical concerns
  • Studies that involve invasion of privacy and/or may harm the participants

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Cons of Deception

  • Why should we NOT deceive?
  • Deception contradicts the principle of informed consent.
  • Relationship bw researcher & participant is not open & honest.
  • Frequent use of deception may make individuals suspicious about research and psychology.

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Deception is justified only

  • when the study is very important,
  • no other methods for conducting research are available,
  • deception would not influence individuals’ decision to participate in the research.
  • when the deception does NOT involve misinforming participants about significant risks, discomforts, etc

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Debriefing

  • When deception is used, after the experiment the researcher must debrief participants
  • Full disclosure of the nature of the study involves 2 important things…
  • 1. DEHOAX =
  • reveal the true purpose of the study,
  • Inform participants the reasons for the deception, &
  • Discuss any misconceptions they may have
  • 2. DESENSITIZE =
  • Remove any harmful effects of the deception
  • Reduce any negative feelings from participation

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  • Debriefing
  • Difficult to do
  • if person terminates the study early
  • If connection with the study is broken by computer crash or power outage
  • Ways to maximize probability of debriefing
  • Have participant provide an email address
  • provide a ‘leave the study’ radio button
  • Incorporate a debriefing page into the program so it is delivered directly to the participant

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  • Ethical Issues in electronic research
  • Informed consent
  • Complicated because there is no clear distinction between what is public and what is private over the internet
  • How to obtain informed consent
  • Can put a consent to participate form on line
  • Does the participant understand it
  • How do you answer questions about the study
  • Privacy and confidentiality
  • Hackers can obtain the data
  • But data can be encrypted and the only connection to the participant is the IP address

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Research with Animals

  • Should animals be used in research?
  • The answer to this question is fiercely debated.
  • Pro’s:
  • Animal studies can be much more highly controlled than human studies.
  • Important areas of research can be examined that would be less appropriate in human samples.
  • Important Considerations: Must follow federal, state, and local laws on use of animals in research

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Guidelines for Animal Research

  • APA Ethical Standards and IACUCs:
  • The researcher who uses animal subjects is ethically obligated to look out for their welfare and to treat them humanely.
  • Any pain, discomfort, or death must be justified by the potential scientific, educational, or applied goals.

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