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Outline and evaluate research (theories/studies) into life changes as a source of stress (Holmes & Rahe), and discuss potential stressors and ethical issues in research on obedience.

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Introduction

Outline and evaluate research (theories/studies) into life changes as a source of stress (Holmes & Rahe), and discuss potential stressors and ethical issues in research on obedience. Because social psychology is primarily concerned with the behaviour of humans, researchers often need to use techniques such as deception and uninformed consent in order to obtain ecologically valid results. How ethically acceptable these methods are depend on any long-term effects of the research, and exactly what the research has discovered. The potential influence of these stressors are addressed in the second part of this essay. The British Psychological Society (BPS) has ethical guidelines which include deception, informed consent, protection from harm and right to withdraw, all of which must be adhered to in a piece of research. Milgram's experiment on obedience to authority used staged electric shocks in order to test how far participants (pps) would follow orders. Deception was a major part of this experiment, in many ways. The pps in the study were told from the outset that it was an experiment concerning punishment and learning, when in fact it was observing obedience. ...read more.

Middle

They were entering a situation which was ambiguous and almost anything could have happened. However, if Zimbardo had told them what behaviour he was expecting, this could have led to expectancy bias and demand characteristics, and therefore would have been far less valid. Protection from harm was a highly criticised part of Zimbardo's research, Only physical abuse was forbidden, and therefore pps were likely to have suffered large amounts of psychological abuse. Zimbardo knew he would be testing negative aspects of prison life such as humiliation and powerlessness, so some of the results would have been predicted to some extent. He claimed he made every effort to select mentally stable pps, and there was no way of foreseeing the events that occurred. He, like Milgram, also found no evidence of long term harm during debriefing. Although both Milgram and Zimbardo undoubtedly used undesirable methods, few seemed completely unnecessary or unjustified. One key question relating to ethics is "do the ends justify the means?", and in these two experiments, the results do seem particularly significant. Milgram specifically wanted to examine the kind of situation that occurred during the holocaust, and argues that his findings suggest reasons why people obeyed to that extent. ...read more.

Conclusion

However, individual differences play a major part in stress and not everyone is going to find each life event as stressful. There is also no way to establish cause and effect, the data produced is correlational. It also does not account for cultural differences in stress; what is stressful in one culture may not even apply to another, e.g. Christmas; not only does not everyone celebrates this, but for some it can be very relaxing, whereas for others, it can be an extremely stressful time. It defines stressful life events as those which require 'psychological restructuring', yet there are many events that fit into this definition without being stressful; winning the lottery requires a huge life change, yet on the whole, this event can ease stress massively. In conclusion, Holmes and Rahe's scale focuses only on life-events as sources of stress, and not on everyday events. Many people will not experience many of the life events on the SSRS, yet will still be stressed due to daily stressors. The 'Hassles and Uplift' scale was developed as an alternative to the Social Readjustment Rating Scale by Lazarus and Kanner, dealing with less unusual events, and therefore could be seen to provide a more applicable alternative that can explain the impact of life events (both everyday and rare) on stress levels. ...read more.

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