As psychology is about examining human behaviour and mental processes, it is necessary to use human participants in research if we want to obtain findings which are valid. Using people comes with the responsibility to consider and protect their physical and mental well-being, and rights to privacy. Ethical guidelines have been put in place to ensure this. This chapter explains what the ethical guidelines are and how they are applied in order to protect participants. It also focuses on one research paper to highlight the issues of treating participants ethically.
Ethics are a set of principles which relate to correct conduct and standards. They are related to a moral code which specifies right and wrong. In general, ethical codes set out rules for how specialists in a subject (e.g. medical doctors, lawyers, psychologists) should treat the general public. Ethical guidelines are there to protect the rights of a person, such as their privacy, safety and mental health.
Imagine the following scenario. You go into work one morning, as normal, and you are called to a meeting during which your employer tells you that you will be taking part in some research that two psychologists are doing. You are told that you must take part; the penalty for not doing so is to lose some of your monthly salary. One of the psychologists takes you to a room; you sit next to this psychologist who tells you to follow their instructions while the second psychologist observes you. You feel very uncomfortable with what they ask you to do, but when you ask to stop taking part, you are told that you cannot. Once the research is finished, you are told that you can go. You are not told anything about what you have just done. Over the next month, you feel anxious about what you did. How would you feel if this happened to you? Most probably, you would feel angry that you did not have a say in