College of San Mateo The Enterprise of Research in Psychology

Chapter 2: The Enterprise of Research in Psychology reviews the scientific method, various research methods, research terminology and ethics in research. For this discussion board you will be critiquing a research study and addressing ethics in research.

Complete BOTH A and B discussion topics.

Discussion A) New Drug Decreased Depression

A researcher tested a new drug designed to decrease depression. She gave it to 100 clinically depressed patients and discovered that their average level of depression, as measured by a standardized depression inventory, declined after 4 months of taking the drug. She concluded that the drug reduces depression.

•Does the evidence support her claim? Why/why not?

•Is there a control or comparison group? Should there be? Why?

•Are there other variables that might account for the results? What are they?

•How would you modify the design of this experiment to improve it (i.e., to improve your confidence in your results).

Discussion B) Ethical Behavior in research

Read the description of Milgram’s experiment below. In this experiment subjects were led to believe they were shocking another person at intensities of up to 450 volts. During the procedure they were repeatedly told by the experimenter that they “must continue” and that the “experiment requires that you continue.” The majority of subjects demonstrated full obedience all the way up to the maximum shock intensity. After reading the description below describe in your post which specific ethical guidelines may have been violated during this study and why. For this post you must mention specific ethical guidelines (more than one). See this document for a review of ethical guidelines as well as your textbook pages 53-57 (pdf edition 52-55), and powerpoint slides 38-39.

The behavior of Nazi soldiers raised questions concerning human nature. Some claim that only sadistic individuals could commit the atrocious crimes that occurred in the concentration camps. Others claim that the situation was the main influence on how people acted. Many studies have subsequently investigated how personality and situational factors interact to produce behaviors. In some cases, the results of the studies went far beyond what was expected, raising questions concerning the ethics involved in conducting the experiments. One example of an ethically questionable study was performed by Milgram in 1965.

Subjects participated in pairs in a supposed study of learning and memory. Only one member of the pair was an actual subject. The other person was a confederate acting a role. The subject was assigned to the role of the teacherand the confederate was the learner. The teacher and learner were placed in separate rooms. The learner was strapped in a chair to prevent movement and an electrode was placed on his arm. The teacher was placed in an adjoining room that contained an electric shock generator. The experiment required the teacherto teach a list of word pairs and to punish incorrect answers by delivering shocks of increasing intensity. The teacher sat in front of the shock generator that had switches in 15 volt increments ranging from a 15 volt slight shock up to a 450 volt shock that was several increments past the intensity labeled as “danger, severe shock” and was marked with three red X’s. The teacher was instructed to move to the next level of intensity for each incorrect answer. Although no shocks were actually given, the confederate learner had been trained to act as though the increasingly high intensity shocks were increasingly painful, first through grunts, then cries of pain, and finally through the failure to respond at all. When the teacher questioned the experimenter about continuing, they were instructed to please continue, and then if necessary told more firmly to continue, it was essential to continue, and that they had no choice but to continue. At times, the worried teachers questioned the experimenter about who was responsible for any harmful effects that resulted from shocking the learner at such a high level. Upon receiving the answer that the experimenter assumed full responsibility, teachers seemed to accept the response and continue shocking the learner.

When discussing the experiment with colleagues, students, and middle-class adults, most people predicted that the teacher would disobey the instructions at about 135 volts, and that no one would go beyond 300 volts. In the actual experiment, 63% of the teachers went all the way to 450 volts. Everyday, average people appeared to become obedient to the experimenter, inflicting supposed high levels of pain on virtual strangers. However, this obedience did not come without personal sacrifice. Many subjects were stressed against their will. Many experienced agony in deciding what to do – they sweated, trembled, stuttered, bit their lips, groaned, and even broke into uncontrollable laughter. Although advanced planning justified this experiment, once the submissive side of human nature emerged, the ethics of continuing the experiment became an issue.

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