Study notes

Ethics and Psychology

  • Levels: AS, A Level
  • Exam boards: AQA, Edexcel, OCR, IB

The BPS Code of Ethics are a set of guidelines which have been outlined by the British Psychological Society for anyone carrying out psychological research in the UK. Many countries have guidelines that are similar (for example the USA).

There are four ethical principles which are the main domains of responsibility for consideration by researchers within the code; respect, competence, responsibility and integrity.

The following list is a summary of the ethical considerations set up by the BPS in 2009. The list is only a summary and only covers the main considerations.

Researchers in psychological research should consider the following when they plan and run research:

Consent; have participants given informed consent? If the participant is under 16 years old, has informed consent been given by their parents or carers?

Deception: have the participants been deceived in any way? If so, could this have been avoided?

Debriefing: have the participants been debriefed? Have they been given the opportunity to ask questions?

Withdrawal from the investigation: have the participants been informed of their right to withdraw from the research at any point, including the right to withdraw their data at a later date?

Anonymity and Confidentiality: participants have a right to remain anonymous in publication of the research and confidentiality should be maintained except in exceptional circumstances where harm may arise to the participant or someone associated with the research or participant.

Protection of participants: researcher must protect participants from both physical and psychological harm

The BPS have set out their code of ethics in detail in a document which can be found here.


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