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Discuss the use of animals in psychological research

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Discuss the problems that Psychologists have faced when attempting to define a set of ethical guidelines for research using human participants. The main dilemma faced by psychologists is that it is often difficult to balance the scientific validity of experiments, with the need to protect the rights and integrity of their participants. A number of issues emerge: how far should psychologists go in trying to further their knowledge? Do the ends justify the means? Do we have a responsibility to predict the potential stress and harm to individuals (or society in the case of socially sensitive research). The BPS (1993) has published ethical guidelines for conducting research with human participants and while, many of the research covered here is either American or earlier than these guidelines, they give us a focus for discussion. One of the most problematic guidelines is that of DECEPTION - the BPS suggests that participants shouldn't be deliberately mislead except when scientifically necessary. This causes a number of problems: social psychological research (like Asch's conformity studies or Milgram on obedience) ...read more.


The right to WITHDRAWAL from the investigation at any time must also be considered. In Milgram's study the participants were firmly obliged to continue through what he called 'verbal prompting' while in Zimbardo's prison simulation, one of the key parts of the experiment was denying the right to withdraw. Both of these could perhaps be justified on scientific grounds. Zimbardo discontinued the experiment as soon as real stress began to tell to his participants and Milgram argued that prompting was designed to simulate the conditions inside some of the Death Camps during the Holocaust - i.e. it was meant to be forceful. Others have argued that any payment of money may lead to participants feeling they cannot withdraw, though the BPS guidelines state this should not be the case. PROTECTION OF PARTICIPANTS is a key issue. Baumrind criticised Milgram for failing to protect his subjects from stress and discomfort (one even had a seizure), while Bandura's experiment using the Bobo doll was criticised for forming aggressive behaviour in children. As an answer to Baumrind's criticisms, Milgram demonstrated that extensive DEBRIEFING (a key ethical stipulation in itself), was undergone and a ...read more.


private houses, toilets etc) , but this is ambiguous. While walking down a street we would expect to be seen, we would not expect to be specifically observed. Using Participant Observation as a technique has been argued by some as a grave misuse of trust, since it involves deception on a grand scale. The final issue to be considered is that of prediction. Milgram and Zimbardo claimed they did not predict the outcomes of their research, but should they be required to? Milgram continued to do variations of his experiments over a number of years and so could hardly claim not to have had specific hypotheses in mind. Likewise, one of the chief reasons behind Zimbardo's research was the damaging and alienating effects of Deindividuation, and the fact that it was partially funded by the US Navy makes it seem that at least some of the effects could have been predicted. On the other hand, others have argued that it is precisely because of these adverse effects that the studies are valid, that only studies that cause anxiety or discomfort are truly useful contributions to human knowledge. The end justifies the means, seems to be the theme here. 905 words ...read more.

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