Describe the various reasons why research ethics are important. Identify and define at least two ethical problems for each of the following studies: Tearoom Trade (Laud Humphreys' study), the...

Describe the various reasons why research ethics are important. Identify and define at least two ethical problems for each of the following studies: Tearoom Trade (Laud Humphreys' study), the Milgram Obedience study, Zimbardo's Prison Experiment, and the "Tuskegee Study of Untreated Syphilis in the Negro Male." 

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bohemianteacher4u | College Teacher | (Level 3) Assistant Educator

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In the "Tearoom Trade Study," Humphrey pretended to be a voyeur and conducted research on individuals without their agreement to participate.  To make things worse, he wrote down some of the gay men's license plates and tracked them down.  His conduct was highly unethical.

Stanley Milgram's study used ordinary people and put them in a situation where they had to decide whether or not to submit a harsh electric shock to a person that he or she believed was a participant.  The idea was to determine how people respond to authority.  The experiment placed the participants in a highly stressful situation by engaging them in delivering (they believed they were real) shocks to the other participant.  The situation was psychologically stressful for those who willingly followed the authority figure's commands to shock the participant even at a high voltage.  In addition, the nature of the experiment failed to disclose the full intent of the situation.

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bohemianteacher4u | College Teacher | (Level 3) Assistant Educator

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Zimbardo's Prison Experiment was unethical because the experiment took college students and placed them in a situation of psychological duress.  The people who played the role of guards became cruel and engaged in behavior that was not normal for them.  The people that served as inmates were victimized by the guards.  The outcome of the research led to post traumatic stress responses in some of the participants (McLeod, 2008).  

Two ethical issues in the experiment were that psychological harm was done to the participants and the people had no way of ending the experiment when it became overwhelming.  Today, participants have the right to opt out of an experiment at any time.

In the "Tuskegee Study of Untreated Syphilis in the Negro Male," the two ethical situations that are prominent are the researcher's failure to fully inform the participants about the nature of the experiment.  The researchers, in the name of the experiment, failed to protect human life by failing to administer penicillin to the men.  

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bohemianteacher4u | College Teacher | (Level 3) Assistant Educator

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Research provides people with additional information about concepts, and relationships among variables.  People are dependent on the information provided to them in good faith that the research conducted is accurate and not biased.  Ethics addresses the norms that a society has that dictate conduct in society.  Different occupations require a different set of ethics, but most hold that to withhold truth is unethical.  Research has its own set of ethics.  Different types of research rely on ethics to ensure that the researcher is doing no harm and presenting information truthfully (Resnick, 2011).

If one is working with humans, one has a significant set of ethics that prevents one from harming humans, psychologically or physically. An experiment on syphilis was performed in Alabama.

The study was supposed to be looking at the past cases of syphilis.  At the time, records showed that over 300 of the men had active cases of syphilis that were being transmitted to family members.  Penicillin was available to treat syphilis, but instead of treating the men, the researchers chose to allow them to continue as carriers of the disease.  Many of the men died from the disease.  The act showed such little regard for human life that the result led to establishing standards for working with human participants.

In animal research, often vital, ethical practices must be conducted.  No longer can animals be subjected to painful tests.  In addition, researchers are required to look for alternatives to animal testing when available. 

David Resnick, 2011, developed a list of reasons why ethics in research are important.

  • Having norms promotes the truth and decreases chances of error.
  • Ethics provides a foundation for establishing teamwork and goals.
  • Researchers who violate ethics can be held liable to the public.  
  • Public support is more likely to be obtained if practices are carried out ethically.
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