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To what extent is it ok for researchers to break ethical guidelines?

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Introduction

To what extent is it ok for researchers to break ethical guidelines? Ethical guidelines are put into place to provide a clear structure for psychologists to follow in order to minimise any physical or mental harm participants may be subjected to. These guidelines have been thoroughly revised and put into place by the British Psychological Society (BPS) from June 1990 onwards. When conducting research psychologists are required to take into account the following ethical criteria: gaining the consent of participants and their parents (in the case of a child), deception, debriefing, and making it clear that the participant can withdraw at any stage. They must also consider confidentiality and protection of participants, only observe participants in situations where it could be normally expected for them to be observed by strangers, and to only give psychological advise if they are qualified to. ...read more.

Middle

If things like this can be prevented through the use of ethical guidelines then it surely must be a good thing. But on the other hand, these guidelines may restrict certain pieces of research from taking place, and some of which may even lead to ground breaking discoveries. Many psychologists may argue that sometimes if breaking a few rules can benefit humanity in the long run, provided no permanent damage is induced on the participant, this should be seen as a good thing. Certain investigations also wouldn't have taken place if it wasn't for breaking a couple of these rules for example Milgrams study, where he deceived the participants into thinking that the research measured how punishments can affect learning. This was effective in observing and measuring the participants 'true' behaviour, which in this case was a measure of obedience. ...read more.

Conclusion

In addition other colleagues could look into the experiment and ensure the participant isn't going through unnecessary pain. But I personally think this is a weak argument, and like I mentioned above if we allowed some rules to be broken it would be hard to draw the line. In conclusion, when it comes to ethical guidelines before the thought of breaking one even arises, every other alternative should be explored, and only then should one be broken. The researcher should also make certain that the research wouldn't cause any permanent damage, and also if the research is truly necessary in understanding human behaviour. But the boundaries being there is really important because without it researchers would be able to do anything. Even if the ethical guidelines aren't followed to the letter, just the presence of them will hopefully make psychologists at least consider them, and try to think of alternatives based on what their research requires. ...read more.

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