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Ethics & Research. Communication Research Week 2 Myra Gurney. What is Ethics?.

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Ethics & Research

Communication Research

Week 2

Myra Gurney


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What is Ethics?

  • Can be defined as a systematic attempt, through the use of reason, to make sense of our individual and social moral experience in such a way as to determine the rules which govern human conduct and the the values worth pursuing in life

  • A set of standards that regulate our behaviour

  • Can be socially and culturally determined

Communication Research Spring 2005


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What is Ethics?

  • Enables us to distinguish between what is acceptable and legitimate and what is not

  • The word ‘ethics’ comes from the Greek ethos meaning custom and character

  • An important aspect of any ethical system is the role of truth and lies

Communication Research Spring 2005


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Types of Ethics

  • Normative – dictate what is morally correct behaviour.

  • Fundamental concern is the development and justification of systems of moral rules which guide conduct

  • Statements of ‘ought’

Communication Research Spring 2005


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Types of Ethics

  • Relative – “Fire burns both in Hellas and in Persia; but men’s ideas of right or wrong vary from place to place.” … Aristotle’s Nichomanchean Ethics

  • Absolute – application of principles regardless of context or circumstances eg exercise of absolute power in politics – tyranny

Communication Research Spring 2005


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Research Ethics

  • All researchers, even students, have a responsibility to conduct ethical research

  • Participants in research studies should know and understand their rights and responsibilities

  • Ethical considerations are part of the design of the research project

Communication Research Spring 2005


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The 10 point Nuremburg Code

  • 1.Participation must be voluntary, and subjects should have the capacity to give consent. Further, subjects should be fully informed of the purposes, nature, and duration of the experiment.

  • 2. The research should yield results that are useful to society and that cannot be obtained in any other way.

Communication Research Spring 2005


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The 10 point Nuremburg Code

  • 3. The research should have a sound footing in animal research and be based on the natural history of the problem under study.

  • 4. Steps should be taken in the research to avoid unnecessary physical or psychological harm to the subjects.

  • 5. Research should not be conducted if there is reason to believe that death or disability will occur in the subjects.

Communication Research Spring 2005


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The 10 point Nuremburg Code

  • 6.The risk involved in the research should be proportional to the benefits to be obtained.

  • 7. Proper plans should be made and facilities provided to protect the subject from harm.

  • 8. Research should be conducted by highly qualified scientists only.

Communication Research Spring 2005


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The 10 point Nuremburg Code

  • 9. The subject should have the freedom to withdraw at any time if he or she has reached the conclusion that continuing in the experiment is not possible.

  • 10. The researcher must be prepared to discontinue the experiment if it becomes evident that continuing will be harmful to the subject.

Communication Research Spring 2005


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Unethical research – The Willowbrook Studies

  • 1963-66 at Willowbrook State School in New York for “mentally defective persons”

  • Children deliberately infected with hepatitis in order to understand the natural history of the disease and the effects of gamma globulin in preventing the disease

  • Defended on the grounds that the children would have caught it anyway – better under “controlled conditions”

Communication Research Spring 2005


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Unethical research – John B Watson and “Little Albert”

  • Famous psychological experiment to test the effects of classical conditioning

  • Little Albert was 11 months old

  • Introduced to a laboratory white rat of whom he initially had no fear

  • When the rat was later introduced, a scary stimulus (eg a loud noise) was “paired” with the original

  • Albert was later conditioned to fear anything white including a Santa Claus mask

Communication Research Spring 2005


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Unethical research – Simulated Rape Field Study

  • Harari, Harari & White (1985) male participants alone or in groups were exposed to simulated rape (screaming woman grabbed by male assailant and dragged into bushes)

  • Measured yes or no to intervention by participants

  • Prior to intervention, participants debriefed

Communication Research Spring 2005


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Simulated Rape Study – problems

  • Should informed consent have been obtained? Post hoc informed consent?

  • Psychological Stress?

  • Unexpected reactions by participants, e.g. what if someone had a gun?

  • Should subjects be stopped and debriefed? What about those who didn’t stop? What should debriefing include?

Communication Research Spring 2005


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The Belmont Principles

  • The primary task of the National Commission was to identify the ethical principles that would guide all research involving humans. The Belmont Report -- Ethical Principles and Guidelines for the Protection of Human Subjects was published in 1978.

  • The principles of The Belmont Report govern all research supported by the U.S. government today.

Communication Research Spring 2005


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Current Standards

3 BASIC FACTORS

  • 1. Respect for Persons: This principle acknowledges the dignity and freedom of every person. It requires obtaining informed consent from research subjects (or their legally authorized representatives).

  • 2. Beneficence: This principle requires that researchers maximize benefits and minimize harms associated with research. Research-related risks must be reasonable in light of expected benefits

  • 3. Justice: This principle requires equitable selection and recruitment and fair treatment of research subjects.

Communication Research Spring 2005


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The Problem of Deception

Deception interferes with a subjects’ right to be informed

  • Role-Playing

    • Research shows that informed and uninformed participants behave differently

  • Prior Consent

    • General consent to be uninformed

  • Debriefing

    • Inform participants about study (methods, purpose, results) including deception used

Communication Research Spring 2005


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What is active deception?

  • Misrepresenting the purpose

  • False statements about the identity of the researcher

  • False promises to the participant

  • Violations of promise of anonymity

  • Misleading statements about equipment and procedures

  • Use of pseudosubjects

Communication Research Spring 2005


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What is active deception?

  • False diagnoses and other reports

  • False interaction

  • Using placebos or secret administration of drugs

  • Misleading settings and behavior of the experimenter

Communication Research Spring 2005


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Passive Deception

  • Doing unrecognized conditioning

  • Provoking and secretly recording negative behavior of participants

  • Making concealed observations

  • Doing unrecognized participant observation

  • Using projective techniques and otherpersonality tests.

Communication Research Spring 2005


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Debriefing

  • Make a full disclosure of purposes of the research

  • Give a complete description of and justification for the deception

  • Discuss the problem of perseverance

  • Provide a convincing argument for the need for deception

  • Demonstrate bogus experiment or show participants that actual responses were never seen by the experimenter

  • Have participants observe a subsequent session showing deception

  • Make the individual an active participant in the research

Communication Research Spring 2005


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Ethical issues in conducting research

  • Intentional deception

  • Use of confederates

  • Physical and psychological harm

  • Upholding anonymity and confidentiality

  • Videotaping and audiotaping participants

  • Debriefing participants

Communication Research Spring 2005


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Ethical Issues in reporting research

  • Ensuring accuracy

    • Researcher is always responsible for accuracy regardless of who helps

  • Avoiding plagiarism by

    • Using direct quote

    • Using summaries or paraphrases

    • Acknowledge ideas or contributions

  • Protecting identities of participants

Communication Research Spring 2005


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