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Chapter 7 - Analysing the Data Part IV - Analysis of Variance Chapter 1 - Behavioural Science and research Chapter 2 - Research Design Chapter 3 - Collecting the Data Chapter 4 - Analysing the Data Part I - Descriptive Statistics Chapter 5 - Analysing the Data Part II - Inferential Statistics Chapter 6 - Analysing the Data Part III - Common Statistical Tests Operationalism Experimental and non-experimental designs Internal and external validity Between groups Vs repeated measures designs Ethical issues


Chapter 2: Research Design


Ethical issues

Ethical issues are very important in research these days. Universities are required by law to have Human (and Animal) Ethics Committees which vet and oversee all research that is conducted under the UniversityŐs name. Their main responsibility is to check for issues in the study that might interfere with a participantŐs right to not participate, or with possible harm, deception, or embarrassment to participants.

A major issue is that potential participants are clearly informed about what they are agreeing to participate in. Also, even if a participant agrees to participate they have the right to withdraw their participation at any time without prejudice. These two issues need to be spelt out on the Consent form.

Consider the earlier example in which we deliberately gave false feedback to participants so that we could manipulate their sense of success. This study therefore required deception of the participants. This has ethical implications as to whether the information gained is worth subjecting people to such deception. For the study to be approved by a Research Ethics committee, you would have to debrief the participants afterwards. You would also have to nominate a source of counselling or assistance if a participant was adversely affected. It might be unlikely, but consider what might happen if only one person is "psychologically" injured by believing they scored in the top 5% of the population and are later told that it was all a lie. What might they do to themselves? What effect might it have on later behaviour or relationships? So consent forms also need to have names and contact numbers for a participant who might later have trouble dealing with this. Notice the difficulty of clearly informing the potential participant about the study without telling them about the deception manipulation. Ethics committees need to see a very good reason for deception before they will allow it. They will on occasions but the benefit of the information obtained needs to clearly outweigh the risks associated with deception and considerable care has to be taken to prepare for problems that might occur.

As another example of an ethical issue, consider the other previous example in which the researcher was interested in whether exposure to violent TV programs increases aggressiveness. Perhaps as a consequence of our exposure some child starts a fight and hurts another child or gets hurt themselves. This might have further consequences in terms of shame or embarrassment, social isolation, or altered relationships with parents, teachers, and friends. Obviously the researcher and the Ethics Committee should anticipate such problems and take all the precautions they can.




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