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Beyond Ethics… From the black and white to the grey!

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Presentation on theme: "Beyond Ethics… From the black and white to the grey!"— Presentation transcript:

1 Beyond Ethics… From the black and white to the grey!

2 Assessing Risk When a researcher asks individuals to participate in research or observes individuals without their awareness, a number of ethical issues arise: – Will participants be harmed by the research? – What are the benefits of the research? – How will individuals privacy be protected? – Will information provided by them be confidential? Deciding on the cost/benefit of proposed research. – Is entirely subjective; what one REC says is ok, another may not. – Different views of ethical behaviour: Consequentialism- what’s right/wrong depends on outcome Deontological – argues that there are just things that are right and wrong – Study design is also important: will valid results be produced? – If risk is involved, need to explore all other low-risk options first.

3 Assessing the Risk / Benefit Ratio Everyday life has risks and benefits …but what do we have to consider in research?

4 Toxins and Mental Function Anecdotal accounts of toxins and their effects chronicled for centuries – lead, asbestos, cigarettes etc… Toxic substances affect the nervous system & that includes the CNS… the brain new compounds developed every year - 3-5% neurotoxic Production of new chemicals outstrips research They are EVERYWHERE!

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6 Impaired General Intellectual Ability Response Speedx Working Memoryx Visual Memoryx Auditory Memory Verbal Abilities Mental Flexibility & Inhibitionx Strategy Makingx Verbal & Visual Reasoning Ability Visio-Spatial Abilities RESULTS - Cognitive function

7 Controversial Research Issues Moral Dilemmas What is the researcher’s responsibility when potential harm has been done to participants? What is the researcher's responsibility if a problem is found in active pilots? What are the legal implications? Beyond OPs Can you think of other areas in research where ethical, moral and legal issues may create issues?

8 Controversial Research: Beyond BPS Guidelines Clinical Studies Where you have promised anonymity/confidentiality: – what do you do if you identify someone with serious ill health or suicidal ideation in a study? Crime in Action What are your obligations to the participants when researching illegal behaviours? – what happens with issues of anonymity/confidentiality? What are your obligations when research may involve you being involved in (or at the edge of) illegal behaviour?

9 Complex Ethical Dilemmas "One of my interviewees in prison has told me about getting away with various offences. He told me he is in prison for three burglaries, but there are several other offences that the police don't know about. What should I do?“ It should have been made clear to participants in the research at the outset what the limits of confidentiality for those involved in the study were. Research in sensitive settings such as prisons is particularly likely to throw up issues of this kind.

10 Complex Ethical Dilemmas “When running focus group discussions with primary school children as part of my research, they started talking about a man called John who gives them sweets at the gate of the school. There was a lot of hushing and shushing and it became clear that I was being told something I wasn't meant to hear because of their parents. What should I do?“ The welfare of vulnerable participants in research overrides other concerns. If research uncovers suspected child abuse, this must be disclosed to the proper authorities. In this case, the suspicion is vague but valid: the researcher should inform a senior staff member at the school of what was said.

11 Assessing Risk College students complete a Likert scale assessment describing their current mood. The researcher seeks to identify depressed students so that they can be included in a study examining cognitive deficits associated with depression. A psychologist administers a battery of achievement tests to elderly adults in the dayroom at their nursing home. The psychologist seeks to determine if there is a decline in mental functioning with advancing age. A researcher recruits students to take part in a study looking at the effects of alcohol on cognitive functioning. The experiment requires that some students drink 4 units of alcohol before performing a computer game. A researcher is interested in the vividness of autobiographical memories either neutral or positive words elicit. They give a list of words containing both to people and ask them to recall an associated memory – and to judge the vividness of it.

12 Informed Consent not necessarily needed in studies involving observing naturalistic public behaviour… deciding what counts as public can be challenging.


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