Social Influence Research - Do the Ends Justify the Means? Essay

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Social Influence Research - Do the Ends Justify the Means?

To what extent does the importance of social influence research,
justify the methods used in its investigation?

The debate about ethics in psychology focuses on two areas: protection
of participants and benefiting society. This is a double obligation
dilemma as if some psychologists are not allowed to do certain
experiments because of ethical restraints; this can cause problems
with validity. In social psychology, these psychologists have an
obligation to use their research skills to advance our knowledge of
human behaviour, for the ultimate aim of human betterment.

Milgram’s study into obedience involved participants becoming a
‘teacher’ and applying an electric shock to the ‘learner’ (who was a
confederate) when they answered a word association question
incorrectly. The participant was not aware that the shocks they
administered were false and some believed they may have killed a man.

In this instance therefore, the code of conduct and ethical guidelines
published by the British Psychological Society (BPS) and American
Psychological Society (APS) in 1993 were broken in more than one way.
The participants’ right to withdraw was disabled as the prods given by
the experimenter (such as “please continue” etc) made the participants
feel that they had no choice but to continue. The were also involved
in deception as they thought they had administered real shocks and
were not informed of the confederate being present. This study,
however, was conducted in the 1950’s and the ethical guidelines were
not in position and therefore this study may be published in modern
day t...

... middle of paper ...

case. For example, there was only one prisoner who tried to resist and
went on a hunger strike. When he was put into solitary confinement the
others were allowed to release him by means of giving up their
blankets. They refused. They saw they situation as every man for
themselves. Another benefit to society was also the impression this
experiment left on the prison system in America at the time, and some
aspects of this were changed as a result.

Therefore in conclusion, in these two experiments alone, the unethical
methods used can be justified as they have helped to profit humanity
by providing insight into how humans behave when put into certain
social situations. Without these ethical guidelines being broken, both
experiments would have lacked ecological validity and the results
would not be legitimate.

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