Psychology is an abstract scientific discipline that coherently explores the behaviour of individuals and their mental processes (Whetham, et al., 2003). Past studies have been conducted by psychologists to understand and make comparisons between these behaviours and mental processes that the individuals pose. These studies require test subjects therefore, ethics play a major role in ensuring that the participants are not impacted by the study (Whetham, et al., 2003). Ethics are moral principles that are developed to ensure rights and responsibilities of the psychologist are retained throughout the research design (BBC UK, 2014). Over the last 100 years, ethics have been modified to be conveyed most effectively. Therefore, this essay will substantiate an answer to support the question ‘Have ethical guidelines influenced the field of Psychology in a positive way and what is the future for ethics within Psychology?” using the two significant studies; Stanley Milgram’s Obedience Study and Phillip Zimbardo’s Stanford Prison Experiment.
Stanley Milgram’s Obedience Study
Stanley Milgram’s Obedience study was a social psychology experiment that investigated obedience to an authority figure. Yale University Psychologist, Stanley Milgram, began the experiment in 1961, shortly after World War II to determine acts of genocide by general public following orders from superiors (McLeod, 2007). The study consisted of an authority figure, an actor pretending to receive electric shocks and a person chosen as the “teacher”. The teacher was given a list of word pairs like ‘nice day’ to teach the student. However, when the student incorrectly identified the word pairing they were given an electric shock as a method of punishment in h...
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...ing animals and humans as test subjects.
In summary, the ethical principles of do not harm, voluntary participation and right to withdraw were breached in the psychological studies; Stanley Milgram’s Obedience Study and Philip Zimbardo’s Prison Experiment. Extreme examples of the principle do not harm, such as conveyed in Zimbardo’s Prison Experiment, show how this ethical value may be breached by a veil of ignorance as the experimenters adapt to their roles. Therefore, in conclusion, these ethical guidelines have affected the field of psychology as it opened doors for more people to understand the detrimental effects of conducting studies without ensuring the participant’s wellbeing is protected. In addition, the future of psychology holds a stricter process to do conduct research using human subjects to minimise any psychological risks like distress.
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