Ethical Considerations in Research

Ethical Considerations in Research

Choose one of the unethical experiments discussed in Chapter 7 of your textbook. Analyze the ethical aspects relevant to the study. Be sure to address the following in your main post:

  • What did the study entail?
  • What were the ethical issues involved?
  • Who was harmed in the research study?
  • Which of the APA Ethical Standards are most relevant to the ethical issues involved?
  • How might you improve upon the research design to reduce the ethical issues involved?


Ethical Considerations in Research

In 1920, John Watson and Rosalie Rayner conducted a study that came to be known as the Little Albert study (Bordens & Abbott, 2018). This study was arguably one of the most unethical studies of its time. Little Albert was removed from the study by his mother and Albert was never deprogrammed by Watson and Rayner.

The Study

The study set out to determine if emotional responses could be learned (Bordens & Abbot, 2018). They took an eleven-month-old boy, whom they called Albert, and presented him with a small white stuffed rat and other furry objects which he seemed to enjoy. Then they began presenting Albert with the objects and at the same time banged a pipe and hammer together behind the boy to startle him. The noise made the baby cry and scared him. Once conditioned, they presented the objects without the noise and still got a cry response and fear.

Ethical Issues Involved

According to Bordens & Abbott (2018), no one knows if they got consent from the baby’s mother. The child was removed from the study abruptly when the mother moved away from the area and was not given any treatment to reverse the conditioning. There is also the issue of doing no harm to a research subject.

Who Was Harmed?

Little Albert was the main victim in the study. He had been traumatized and not treated to reverse the effects. The baby’s mother was also a victim. she had to deal with the repercussions of the trauma inflicted on the baby.

The APA Ethical Issues

The American Psychological Association (APA) was founded in 1892 but did not publish a code of ethical practice until 1953 (APA, 2020). We can then only judge the study against the current code of ethics as published in 2003. According to the current code of ethics, there were two areas of concern in the Little Albert Study. First, 8.02 informed consent, there appears to be no informed consent, nor does it appear that the baby’s mother was informed about what they were going to do to the baby. Second, 8.08(C) Debriefing, Watson & Rayner did not take the necessary steps to care for and treat the harm that they had inflicted on the baby.

Improving the Study

The first improvement that comes to mind would be to use a positive emotion instead of a fear response. For example, find a stimulation that makes the baby laugh, introduce the object each time you make the baby laugh and then introduce the object to see if the baby laughs without the secondary stimulation.

To accomplish adherence to today’s APA code of ethics we would gather the proper informed consent paperwork and adhere to the codes respective of causing no harm and treating any unforeseen harm from the study, APA Code 8.08(C) (APA, 2020)

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