Experimentation and Ethics in Psychology 

After reading Research Ethics in Psychology: Vulnerable Research Participants, I remembered the importance of so-called “Ethics” in psychology. It is covered in the social psychology part of  the   course. 

So, what are ethics? 

Well, to be ethical may be defined as sticking to moral principles, such as values that avoid deliberate harm to others or ourselves.  Ethics, in psychology, links to the rights and responsiblities of researchers to their participants. These ethics are meant to limit psychical and psychological harm of an individal and are moral restrictions of research. 

The British Psychological Society (BPS) decided not to allow the researchers to define their own moral standards, but to come up with guidelines that all must follow. 

These guidelines are as follows: 

  • Respect 
  • Integrity
  • Responisiblity
  • Minimising harm 

Below are some key parts of ethics studied in the course

Informed Consent

Well this idea is split into two important parts. 

Firstly, the simple idea of consent. This is the idea that all participents must be voluntary. They must not be forced, brided or intimidated in any way to take part. 

Secondly, the idea of “informed” consent. This is the idea that, whenever possible, the participent must be aware of 100% of what the research is for, what their results will be used for and what the procedure is. 

For example, Milgram had many issues around the idea of informed consent as he told his participants that his experiment was about memory when it was in fact about obedience. 

Right to Withdraw

The right to withdraw suggests that at anytime a participent may leave the research. They cannot be forced to stay or denyed the right to leave. 

The researchers have a few important procures to ensure they obide by the right to withdraw: 

  1. The researcher has the responsibility to inform the participants of their right
  2. If, at any time, a participant asks to leave – they must be allowed without any resistance 
  3. If, during or after the research, the participents asks to withdraw their data (or remain anonymous) from the research – this wish must be respected


A debrief is the process in which, after research, the researcher “checks in” on the  participant to ensure no harm has come to them. This is especially important where full informed consent was unable to be attained. 

It is important that the debreif if done as quickly as possible, with the aim to sooth any anxieties of the participant. 

Protential for harm   

This is the idea that researchers take into account any harm that may occur. This may include any psychical, emotional or psychological risks that the participant may encounter. Risks are particularly important to be reduced if the participents are vunerable due to young/old age or disabilities. The rule is, usually, that a participant must not be exposed to more risk than they would encounter on a normal day of their lives. However, allowances may be made if the value of the research is high (pictured below). 


Author: Olivia Taylor

Hi! I’m Olivia. and I am here to tell you about everything Psychology. I study Biology, English Literature and, of course, Psychology at A level, which are all fantastic subjects to learn. I hope that through this blog I can show you a little bit about a subject that has always fascinated me. I am mainly known around the school for my win in the CET 2016 speech competition and my participation in Young Enterprise. I hope you enjoy my posts and I can help you discover if my subject is right for you!

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