Using the CPA Code of Ethics in I/O Psychology (Canadian Psychological Assn)

By Kline, Theresa J. | Canadian Psychology, April 1994 | Go to article overview

Using the CPA Code of Ethics in I/O Psychology (Canadian Psychological Assn)


Kline, Theresa J., Canadian Psychology


Harvey's paper on using the Canadian Psychological Association's (CPA) Canadian Code of Ethics for Psychologists (hereafter called the Code) (1986) in an organizational case provides the opportunity for several comments. First, I agree with his point that if professional bodies do not police their own activities, regulatory bodies will be only too happy to step in and fill the void. This type of situation should be avoided in that regulatory agencies generally do not consist of individuals with the background or expertise to make informed judgements regarding specific professional issues. It is much more reasonable to employ the opinions of peers and colleagues to facilitate the ethical decision - making process. This is clearly the intent of the Code. For example, four of the standards relevant to Harvey's organizational case study appeal to the independent colleague review process in attempting to determine the "ethicalness" of an intended course of action to be taken in the dilemma (Principle II, Standard 13; Principle III, Standards 16, 31 and 34).

A second comment is an issue that deserves mention, but was not specifically addressed in Harvey's article. This is with regard to the utility of the Code in its pedagogical role in education and training in I/O Psychology. Sinclair, Poizner, Gilmour - Barrett and Randall (1987) indicated that the Code is not only a guide to individual practitioners and researchers, but also a teaching tool. The I/O section of CPA ( 1989) and the Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology of APA (1985) have adopted guidelines for the education and training of graduate students in I/O Psychology. Both advocate developing competence in the area of "Ethical, Legal and Professional Contexts of I/O Psychology". Eberlein (1988) makes a strong argument in favour of using the Code and its decision - making model for teaching ethics in either workshops or standard class room format. The I/O programs in Canada that are developing and continuing to develop should look to the Code as a valuable resource in designing curricula for teaching ethical standards to its students, as well as giving them the opportunity to discuss cases of ethical dilemmas with respect to the decision - making process described in the Code.

Scrutiny by the public and by the profession has made ethics an issue of importance in teaching, beginning at the undergraduate level. It seems that the interest and importance of ethics in I/O Psychology research and practice has increased since the article by Giacalone, Robinson, Gracin, Greenfeld and Rosenfeld (1982) cited by Harvey. For example, two texts that I considered using in teaching an undergraduate course in I/O Psychology (Landy, 1989; Muchinsky,1990) address broad ethical issues with regards to obligations to the profession, individual workers and the employer. These are treated separately in addition to the more narrowly defined issues such as testing or selection procedures which have been addressed by the courts.

Specific Standards

There exists doubt in my mind as to whether or not it is necessary to develop "specific standards for particular areas of practice" as Harvey believes. The four principles and the 138 standards that operationalize those principles into concrete suggestions are quite extensive. One of the reasons for less numerous and precise standards on some issues is simply that there is not consensus on them within the professional body (e.g., the Code has nine detailed standards on informed consent and two general standards on nondiscrimination - Sinclair et al., 1987). There is not a strong consensus on many issues that psychologists must deal with, and Tymchuk, Drapkin, Major - Kingsley, Ackerman, Coffman and Baum (1982) conclude that, "What may be more useful for the professional are broader and more basic decision - making standards, rather than specific rules that attempt to define behaviour as 'right' or 'wrong'" (p.

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