Write a report which discusses and evaluates the methodology and ethical issues associated with psychological research

Write a report which discusses and evaluates the methodology and ethical issues associated with psychological research..

Write a report which discusses and evaluates the methodology and ethical issues associated with psychological research.
Research methods used in psychology
Psychologists have used in the past and continue to use today a wide range of research methods in psychological investigations which provide techniques and help them to gather and make sense of their data. From their investigations, data is collected in two forms which are quantitative (data expressed in the form of numbers e.g. time in seconds) and qualitative (data is expressed in a descriptive manner e.g. in verbal reports how research participants feel about something). Researchers aim to discover facts about the world by using systematic and objective methods of investigation. In an experiment the relation between two things is investigated by deliberately producing a change in the independent variable (IV) and recording what effect this has on dependant variable (DV).
Experiment Methods
Experimental methods are usually carried out in the laboratory, field and in the natural. The non- experimental methods are as: controlled observation, naturalistic observation, and participant observation. This essay is going to look at one of the experiment method which is; the laboratory experiment which gives the researcher complete control over the experiment, and a non-experimental method which is the naturalistic observation; it involves the researcher in the recording of behaviour in its natural setting.
The laboratory experiment, considered to be a quantitative research method, is used very widely as a research tool in psychology. It provides researchers with a good and highest possible level of control over variables. Advantages are: a study can be replicated by other researchers. It is possible to determine the cause and effect relationship between IV and DV, and easier to use technical equipment in a laboratory. Disadvantages are that the results may be affected by experimenter bias where an experimenter’s expectations about the study can affect results and volunteer bias where the participants may be influenced by these expectations. Psychologists say that total control is never possible. Since the laboratory experiment is an artificial situation, results may not be generalised to real life, in psychological terms it is called ecological or external validity. Participants may try to manipulate the results, if they get to know the purposes and demands of the experiment.
The first recorded laboratory experiment, was performed four hundred years ago by Galileo an Italian physicist, he tested his theory of acceleration by timing balls as they rolled down an inclined plane. As a result laboratory experiments have been a foundation of the scientific method. Feyman (1963) illustrated this fact when he noted down that, “The principle of science, the definition almost, is the following: the test of all knowledge is experiment. Experiment is the sole judge of scientific truth”. {http://pricetheory.uchicago.edu/levitt/Papers/jep%20revision%20Levitt%20&%20List.pdf}
Professor psychologist Albert Bandura (1961) manipulated the independent variable of exposure to aggression to see what effect it had on the dependant variable of imitation of aggression in children under controlled laboratory conditions by randomly allocating children to either a condition where they saw an adult being violent towards a bobo doll or an adult showing no violence. The number of aggressive acts was later also measured in the laboratory. From the above example main features of a laboratory experiment could be identified. The researcher has a greater chance of deliberately controlling the variables, IV can also be manipulated and DV could be measured in the above example. The Cognitive approach emphasise on using laboratory experiments.
Observation Methods
The naturalistic observation which is considered to be a qualitative research method was originally developed by Lorenz an ethologist. Behaviour is observed in the natural environment, and as there is no IV manipulated, variables are free to alter and are kept to minimal interference. The naturalistic observation is needed to establish possible relationships and it offers a way to study behaviour where there ethical objections to manipulating variables. As much as having high ecological validity, it also gives a more realistic picture of spontaneous behaviour, for in a natural setting people act more realistically. If the observer remains undetected, it is a method that avoids experimental effects such as experimenter bias and evaluation apprehension This method has issues raised by psychologists, the fact that it is difficult to replicate, there is an extent of uncertainty to given results. It is not possible to work out cause and effect, and controlling of extraneous variables become impossible. If participants know that they are being watched, they may behave unnaturally and this might cause alterations in intended results. Issues like privacy and given consent may also arise if participants are unaware of being observed. Dane defined this as “anything that lessens the participants’ perception of an event as natural”. {Eysenck M.W (2000) Page 251}
An example of naturalistic observation was conducted by Anderson (1972). He observed children in a London park and drew a conclusion that it was rear to see a child less than three years of age who could wander away for more than two hundred meters before returning to touch or draw their mother’s attention. Another example is observing how other people behave. This can be carried out in public places like bookstores, school cafeterias, the mall, supermarkets, etc. The researcher has to observe a large group of people and make notes about their behaviour.
Ethical Issues
In terms of research ethics are the moral principles which guide research. They are a set of beliefs about what is right or wrong. “They are known as Ethical Guidelines, put in place to protect ethics” {Cox, E. (2001). Page 144}. The Nuremberg code is one example of an ethical guideline that was introduced after the world war two when the Nazi doctors conducted experiments on prisoners in Germany concentration camps who were considered to be ethnic minorities. “The world was horrified by the revelations of their research. Jews, Gypsies, Poles and Russians were subjected to appalling treatment in the name of science”. {Haralambos M & Rice D (2002) Page190}.isclaim
Each commonly used research method is affected by at least one or more ethical issues. There are six main ethical issues based on the rules of British Psychological Society. These are: Informed consent, deception, debriefing, withdrawal, confidentiality and protection of participants.
This part of the essay is going to look at two of the above: debriefing which occurs at the end of the experiments, then the experimenter discloses all results found in the experiment. The second one is withdrawal which occurs when the participant feel unfairly misled or improperly treated and is forced to withdraw from the experiment.
The debriefing issue plays more in favour of the researcher than the participant because it takes place after the experiment, as much as attempts are made to undo any negative effects of the research methods still the participant would have already been exposed to the side effects of the experiment such as anxiety. However the withdrawal issue has a positive impact on the participants, for they would be in control of the experiment. In other words if they decided to quit, the experimenter would be in no position to stop them.
A lot of criticism has been aimed at the ethics of Milgram’s obedience research. Forty men aged between twenty and fifty years in various jobs, were recruited by a deceptive newspaper advertisement (Milgram, 1963). It asked volunteers for a ‘study memory’ instead of an obedience experiment that Milgram conducted. Payment of four dollars each was promised to be paid to any willing participant as part of their travelling expenses. In their roles of teacher or learner, teachers would ask the learner a question, an electric shock would be delivered to them for any incorrect answers. Critics raised issues because the ethical guidelines were not followed in the above research, participants were falsely informed, and the equipment used was a deception. In his defence, Milgram said, “The central moral justification for allowing a procedure of the sort used in my experiment is that it is judged acceptable by those who have taken part in it”. {Haralambos M & Rice D (2002) Page 190}.
Milgram’s research is a good example that illustrates a negative impact on research; it lacks all ethical guidelines and clearly shows what some researchers are prepared to do in order to obtain results for a particular study. Some researchers do agree with Milgram, Ericson (1968) believes that, “Milgram made a momentous and meaningful contribution to our knowledge of human behaviour”. ” {Haralambos M & Rice D (2002) Page 190}.
Bibliography
•    Cox, E. (2001). Psychology for A’ Level. Oxford University Press, Oxford
•    Eysenck M.W (2000) Psychology for As level Psychology Press
•    Haralambos M & Rice D (2002) Causeway Press
•    http://pricetheory.uchicago.edu/levitt/Papers/jep%20revision%20Levitt%20&%20List.pdf
•    http://social.jrank.org/pages/437/Naturalistic-Observation.html”>Naturalistic Observation

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