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Study notes

Issues & Debates: Ethical Implications of Research Studies and Theories

  • Levels: A Level
  • Exam boards: AQA, OCR

Implications are effects or consequences, and in this section you need to understand the consequences of research studies and theory.

In year one you studied ethical issues in psychological research, for example deception, informed consent, protection from harm, etc. These are examples of ethical implications/consequences for the participants who take part in the research and psychologists are required to balance the rights of the individual participants against the need to produce research that is useful for society. However, the term ethical implications also refers to other people, and psychologists should consider the implications of their findings in a wider context.

Ethical Implications of Research Studies: If you consider Milgram’s (1963) research, you need to consider whether the ‘ends justify the means’. The participants were deceived and were unable to give fully informed consent. The experiment also caused significant distress, and the participants were told or coerced to continue against their will. On the other hand, the participants were debriefed after the experiment and a follow-up interview took place a year later. The outcome of these follow-up interviews suggested that the participants had suffered no long-term effects. Bow

Ethical Implications of Theories: Bowlby’s Theory of Attachment suggests that children form one special attachment bond, usually with their mother, which must take place within a critical period. Bowlby also suggested that this attachment bond affects their future relationships through an internal working model. While Bowlby’s theory has contributed to the development of childcare practices, it has also encouraged the view that a women’s place is at home with her children, which could make some mothers feel guilty for wanting to return to work, following childbirth.

Exam Tip: If you are set an essay on ethical implications of research studies and theories, you can draw on what you know about ethical issues from your year one topics. However, there are also wider consequences that psychologists should also consider relating to the communication and publication of their findings. This is especially prevalent with research that is ‘socially sensitive’.

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