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Approaches to





Royce A. Singleton, Jr.

College of the Holy Cross

Bruce C. Straits

University of California , Santa Barbara

ew York .


Oxford University Press


of the Holy Cross Bruce C. Straits University of California , Santa Barbara ew York .







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Singl eton , Royce. Appro ac hes to soc ia l re search / Roy ce A. Sin g le to n, Jr. , Bru ce C. Straits.-4th ed.


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of all inlerve ning variabl e s, a nd by about

se ven when a ll forms o f ex trac

es timated co e ffi ci ent s for the two athlete

dummy co ntrol s, there is indirect evid e nc e th at on e or both ha ve negative effe ct s in th e ba se­

line modeling of

are po s itiv e (230 for athletes, .005 for inte rc e pt) and th e

weighted total e ffec ts across a ll s tu­

abies inc reases by about ei g bt with the inclusi o n

urricular activiti es arc included

in th e regress io n analysis.

18 Althougb Broh does not repo rt an y of the

math grades (mod e ll, Table 15.4) s inc e the other tw o coe fficient es tililates

dent s should sum to ze ro (th e mean of the standardized math grades).


Research Ethics

Thus far we have dea lt with the technical side of social research-with issues of re­

search design, data collection and analysi s . Beside s these technical aspects , there is another dim e nsion to social sc ience that must be considered-the mora l dimen sion. When we think about how to conduct re search , we must think not only of using the

we have learned. We must

think about research ethics. Ethics is a branch of philo sop hy a nd theology. Both theological ethicists, who defin e the field in term s of religious tradition a nd sacred texts , and philo sophic al

e thicis ts, who define it strictly on the basis of reasoning independent of religious fa ith, are concerned with the same fundamental question: What ought to be done') Ethics is the study of "right behavior." F.or the social scientist, ethics poses ques­ tions concerning how to proceed in moral and re sponsible ways. Ethical considerations und erlie many deci sion s about research method s. Just as prac tical considerations can prevent researchers from implem e nting the ideal re­ search de sign or obtaining as larg e or di ve rse a sa mple as de sired, so too can ethi­

from us­

cal concell1S constrain sci entific inquiry. Ethics may prohibit res earchers

ing experimental treatments that could harm research participants, from asking questions that would prove extremely embarra ss ing or threatening , from making ob­ servations that would deceive or pl ace subjects under dures s, and from reporting in­ formation that would constitute an invasion of privacy. There are thre e broad areas of ethic a l concern in scientific research: the ethic s of data collection and analysis, the ethics of treatm e nt of participants, and tbe ethics

of responsibility to soci e ty (Reese

pected to be careful and forthright Being ethical in this

ond , scienti sts have ethical obligations regarding the treatment of human subjects. Ba sic e thical principle s accepted in our cultural and legal tradition demand that re­

search participants be treated with respect and protected from harm. Finally, ethi­

cal concerns ari se from the relation ship between science and society,

garding th e use s of scientific kn o wledge . M a ny social sc ienti s ts beli ev e that


technique s but also of rig htly using the technique s

and Fremouw , 1984). First , researchers are ex­ in observing, analyzing , and reponing findings.

sense is synonymous with being a good rese arch scientist. Sec­

especially re­


have a re sponsibility to assess th e possible uses of scientific findin gs,

to promote

their beneficial application , a nd to s peak OLlt against their de structive

appl ication. In this chapter, we consider each of the se areas of ethical concern; however, we gi ve th e greatest atte ntion to the treatment of re search participants. Historically, the most con troversial studies, Jllany of which are described below, have involved clashes between scientific practice and the rights and welfare of research partici-





pants. Concern about potential harm to subjects led to the codification and adoption

and Levine, 2003). It al so

is a major focus of the ethical codes developed by professional societies such as the American Sociological Association and the American Psychological Association.

of federal regulations

regarding research practices (Singer

Data Collection and Analysis

Conducting ethical soc ial research involves, first, researc hers' obligations to one another and to their discipline to make sure that their data are sound and trustwor­ thy. Because scientific progress rests upon the trustworthiness of findings from the

work of many investigators, dishonesty and inaccura cy in reporting and conducting re sea rch undermine sc ience itself. Scientific norm s therefore demand intellectual in­ tegrity. Scientists are expec ted to be "unremittingly honest" in their observations and analyses, to be tolerant, que st ioning , and willing to admit error, a nd to place th e pursuit of knowledge and understanding above personal gain or the pro motion

of a particular philosophy or

ideology (Cournand , 1977). Violations of this ethical

code vary from manipulating data in order to obtain a de s ired re s ult to the complete fablication of data.

Unethical data manipulation can occur in many ways. A re searcher may ex­ clude certain cases from the a naly s is to achieve a significant difference between ex­ perimental conditions; fail to report re su lts that contradict a favored hypothesis; and search for statistical te s ts, however inappro priate, that impro ve the appearance of the data by yielding significant re sults or larger effect sizes [for an example, see Berry (1991 )]. The extent to which data are obscured in the se way s is unknown; however, more extre me ethical violations involving the complete fabrication of data are thought to be exceedingly rare in science (MarshaJl, 2000). When, in 2001, so­ cial psychologist Karen Ruggiero retracted articles in two journals because she had fabricated the data , the editor of one journal remarked that he had never seen a re­ traction of this sort in the social psychology literature (Biernat and Crandall, 2001). The Ruggiero case reveals the gravity of scientific fraud. Ru ggeiro's work, published in some leading psychology journals between 1995 and 2000, drew a great deal o f attention. One 1995 paper was cited in over 50 studies . Her provoca­ tive central thesis-that racial and sexual di scrimination are more widespread than most people think-also had important policy implications. Before the revelation of fraud, Ruggiero was a rising star in the discipline. After completing her PhD at McGill University in 1996, she became an assi stant professo r at Harvard, then moved to the University of Texas in 2000, where she quickly gained a reputation as an excellent teacher and colleague (Biernat and Crandall , 2001). Apparently, sus­ picions about the validity of her research arose when others could not replicate her findings. When a former research assistant asked Harvard to investigate, she ad­ mitted to using " invalid data" in her research studies at Harvard (Holden, 2001).

The impact of scientific fraud is far-reaching. For the sc ienti st who is dis­

covered to have published fal se data , the consequences are severe. Ruggiero was subjected to professional disgrace and to public humiliation from media coverage of the incident. She resigned her faculty position and almost certainly ended her

Research Ethics


career as a research scientist. "The ripple effect on the field ." a, C hris Crandall (2001 :20) points out, "can be even worse." Becau se scienti sts huild their research on the work of others, false leads can r 'w lt in the loss of con~iderable time, money, and energy for tho se who purs ue them. imilarly, the publica tio n of fraudulent data harms everyone associated with it: Gr aduate s tudents working in the researcher's lab lose time and the trust of colleagues; the institution where the fraud took place must investigate the case and , if the research was supported by external funding, po ss ibly return the funds; the image of th e discipline may be tarnished ; and the validity of the work of everyone who cites the invalid articles may be que stioned. Science is a public activity, carriecl out by a community of scholars who con­ stantly evaluate each other's work. In the end, it was thi s scrutiny. specifically the inability of others to replicate her finding s, that called into question Ruggiero ' s re ­ search. So, in one sen se, the case shows that science's sys tem of checks is work­ ing. Still, incidents of data manipulation and fabrication may be difficult to uncover. Even though fraud would seem most likely to surface when the research gains prominence , as did Ruggiero ' s, fraudulent data may remain undetected for years. It was well over a decade before it was discovered that C yril Burt's data on twins (see Box 2.2), which were highly influential in research on the heritability of intelli­ gence , were fabricated. Furthermore, re plication may not be the most effective means of preventing or detecting fraud. Exact replications are not highly valued as scholarly work; they are expensive; and varying conditions may confound the in­ terpretation of failure s to replicate. Therefore, so cial researchers must res ort to oth e r methods to prevent scientific fraud. P art of the fallout from th e Ruggiero case was a di scussion of the measure s that should be taken by social scientists to prevent scientific misc onduct. Among the recommendations were the following (Murray , 2002):

• Rese arch institution s s hould educate students about scientific mi sconduct.

Ethic s training is mandato ry for profe ss ional psyc hol ogy programs accredited

by the

Ame rican Psyc ho logical Association, and is required for student s wo rk­

ing on

NIH (N ati o nal

In stitut es of Health) res earc h gran ts The topic o f rese arc h

ethics also sho uld be

an inte gral pan of all courses in social res earch meth ods.

Institutions, funding agen c ies, an d individu a l rc"carc hers s hould periodicall y

bec a use uni vers iti es

do not have the resources for inten sive audit s th at the ~'HH has, we rec ommend

at lea st rand o m CJuality ch ec ks by pr inc ipal in ve stig ators.

for example. s hould validate 3 sample of interview s for eve ry interviewer.

Investigators should prescribe specific

ce rtain data , slich as outliers, befo re

Survey researc her s,

check dat a. The NIH conduct s regul a l' I'esea l'c h audits. But

criteria fo r the in c lus io n or exclusion of

dat a are co llected and a nal

yze d.

• In papers submitt ed for publication, res earch ers sho uld provide detailed infor­

on ho w they collected. pro cess ed , and an a lyzed their data, a nd journal

ma ti o n

editors shoul d insist on such detail ed accollnting.

We cannot o verempha s ize th e importance of carefully conducting research and honestl y reporting finding s . For the sc ienti s t, thi s is the most fundamental ethical dictullJ .



Treatment of Human Subjects

Fo ur problem a reas have been identified most often rega rdin g the et hi ca l trea tm ent of human subjects: potential harm , lack of informed consent, decepti on , and privacy

when resea rch basic rights to

harm others, to force peo ple to perform actions aga inst the ir will, to lie to or mis­

pr actices violate basic hum a n ri g h ts. It is considered a

inv as io n (Die ne r and Crand aJ), 1978 ). Each of the se problem s a ri ses

violati on of

lea d th em, and to in va de

their pri vacy. While most social re search poses no

thre at

to these individual ri gh ts,

there have been so me ethically qu est io na bl e s tudi es

in the

socia l sci ences. A

re view of the se four iss ues will se nsitize the reader to resea rch


ituations that

are potenti a ll y unethica l as well as to s trategie s a nd g uid e line s that

he lp to ens ure

su bjects' rights.


profe ss io nal behavior a ttributed to the One of the first provis ions o f the Hip­

" These

words of Hippoc rate s, advising th at the physician do no harm , offer so und ethical advice fo r resea rch sc ientists as well. The fir s t ri g ht of any participant in a research projec t is the li g ht to persona l sa fety. Eth ica l researchers recognize thi s right a nd

are ca reful to respect it. Re sea rc h tha t would en dan ger the life o r physical hea lth of

a hum an su bject is simply not acce ptable in the social science comm unity . E ve n re­

search tha t h arnl s a nimal s, although it mi g ht dire c tly benefit human s, has been the

poc ratic oa th is that the doctor "abstain from whatever is deleteriou s

All new phy s ici a ns take an oa th o f ethical, Greek physician Hippocrates (460- 377 Be).

foc us of contemporary ( 1997»).

ethical concem [see, fo r example, PloLl s (1996) a nd Rowan

The iss ue of harm is not quite so s imple and straight fo rward as it may appear, howe ver. For one thing, harm is sometime s difficult to define and predict. Given the nature of social science researc h projects, phys ical harm to subjec ts is hig hly

h arm is of a phy s ica l na ture . People can be harm ed personally

psychologica lly (by losing their self-es teem),

a nd soc ial ly ( by los ing their tru s t in o thers) throu g h th e ir participation in research th a t mi g ht never threa ten their phy sical well - bein g (Die ner and Crandall, 1978: nf). Moreove r, it is often difficult to predi ct whether, or the extent to which, one's in­

harm f ul to re sea rc h participan ts. The pri son simula­

ti on st udy of Philip Zimbardo and colleagues (1973) is a good example . The se in­

University building

in which su bj ec ts role-pl aye d prison e rs a nd guards. The study was sc hedul ed to run

two weeks but had to be terminated after only six days because of its unanticipated adverse effec ts o n subjects. Gu ards phy sica lly and psycho lo g ically a bu sed prison­

The sub­

j ects got so caught up in the s ituati on, beca me so absorbed in the ir roles, that they bega n to confuse role-pl ay in g a nd self-identity . While Zimbard o a nd colleag ues in­ tended to st udy how the roles of "g uard" and " prisoner" influen ced s ubjects' reac­ tion s, they neve r anticipated such ex treme effects.

unlikel y. Yet , not all (by being hum iliated

or embarrassed ),

ves ti gat iv e pro ce dures will be

vestigators cre ated a mock pri so n in th e base ment of a Stanford

ers, and pri so ners broke down , rebelled, or beca me servile a nd apathetic.

Resea rch Ethics

5 19

Bes ides the di ff ic ulty of predicti ng ha rm, most sc ien t is ts would not ad here to

t he dictum that

Some researchers take th e position th a t potential harm shou ld be weighed against

the benefits th a t might

criterion fo r a ppro va l of re sea rc h

" Risk s to subjects are reasonable in relation to a nticipat ed benefits

littl e o r no scientific value from a study that knowingly ex po ses subjec ts to harm ,

sta nce is implied by one

no ha rm w ha tsoeve r s hou ld ever come to re searc h particip ants.

be d e rived

from the re searc h . Thi s

in the Code of Federal

Re g ulations ( 1995 : 116 ):

." If there is

the study sho uld not be done, no matter ho w smal l the harm. But if a study has con­

siderable scientific merit , so me degree of potenti a l harm may be justified . For ex­

subjecting informed vol­

am ple, although some researc h o n hypothermia requ ires

unteers to phy s ical harm, suc h as by immersi ng them in co ld wate r, thi s is justified

by the

A major difficu lty with this approach lies in bein g able to assess the full extent

po tenti a l scientific be nefit

o f such an inves ti ga ti o n.


f cos ts and be nefits. Costs an d benefits may be imposs ible to predict or to mea­


ure; and a cost-benefit analysis i g no re s individual ri gh ts, or a t le as t make s



ub servient to soc ietal benefits and to pragmatic considerations . Research seems

most justifiable when th e perso n exposed to the ri sk s will also receive the benefit s

much sc ientific re­

search acc rue not to the individual rese arc h participa nt but to th e inv estigator , to

sc ience, or to the gene ral publi c, and it is more questionable to ju st ify costs to an individual so lel y on th ese g ro und s (Diener and Crandall , 1978).

of po tentially harmful procedures . However, th e ben ef its of

In spite of these problems , a cost-benefit ana ly sis can be a helpful firs t step in

examining the ethics of a proposed study . One should also be sensitive to areas of

s tudy and to researc h pro c edure s th a t pose the g rea te s t ri sk o f harm . Th e potent ia l

for d o in g harm to s ubje c ts may be highest in socia l re sea rch

ative aspects of hum an beh av ior (e.g., aggression, obedience to malevolent author­ ity , cheating). The principa l arena for s uch research is in laborato ry and f ie ld ex­

periments. Through experimental manipulation, su bjects may suffer a temporary lo ss of self-esteem or expe rience a hi g h de g ree of s tre ss, and as a re s u It they m ay

be emba rrass ed or may becom e Consider, for example, the

au th o rity. Under th e g ui se

pl aying the role of te ac her to deliver to learners what th e s ubjects th o ught were d an ­ gerously high levels of electric shock. It goes without saying that the learner, a con­

federate of the experimenter, was not actually bein g shoc ked . But to the subjects this w as a highly s tressful conflict situation : Should they obey the experimenter in admini sterin g the shocks or s hould th e y refu se to continue in the experiment? The subjects showed ma ny obvious sig ns of stress; indeed, one s ubj ec t had a convulsive seiZ ure that made it ne cessa ry to terminate hi s participation. Milgram, in turn , wa s

of a teac her-le a rner experiment , Mil gr a m asked s ubjec ts

angry about th eir in volve ment in re search. work of Stanley Mil gram ( 1974) on obedience to

that investigates ne g­

severely criticized for not protecting his subjects from pote nti a l harm . For example , he made no effort to deteImine before their parti cipation whether su bjects should

be excluded

from the experiment for physical or psyc ho log ica l reaso ns. Some re­

searchers also questioned the lon g- te rm effects th at the experi me nt might have had On s ubject s' sel f-conc e pt s. What would subjects think of th e m se lves knowi ng th a t

they were capable of infli c tin g pain on another perso n ')

520 DAT \


Field exp er iments present even greater problems. In these settings the re­ se archer may find it virtually impossible to intervene when subjects are about to ex­ perience harm. The laboratory s C: lling guarantees a certain amount of control over subjects ' behavior, allowing for intervention if necessary, but that control may be altogether absent in a field sc:tting. Bibb Latane and John Darley (1970), for exam­ ple, sta ged a crime (looting of a liquor store) to explore the conditions under which bystand.;r~, intervene to help. One bystander in their field experiment telephoned the police, who showed up with guns drawn to arrest the researchers. This was a situ­ ation in which considerable harm could have come to both s ubject s and researchers. The ethical iss ue of harm is much le ss a problem for survey researchers and

for experimentalists , but even they must be alert to

participant observe rs than it is

the potential for doing harm. Survey researchers can harm people by asking threat­ ening questions. Participant observers can harm people by their own active in­ volvc:ment as participants. William Foote Whyte (1981 :313), for example, reports that during the course of his study of Comervil1e, he voted four different times in the fall 1937 congressional election. Whatever damage might have been done to the opposition candidate by Whyte ' s illegal actions, while probably insignificant, is not irrelevant.

de signing

one's research to minimize such risks, the researcher needs to be aware of several widely adopted ethical principles that are designed to protect participants from harm (see Diener and C randall, 1978).

Aside from ass ssing the risk of harm to research participants and

I. Researchers should inform subjects of any reasonable or foreseeable risks or discomforts before the study begins and should give subjects sufficient opportu­ nity to consider whether to participate. Indeed, federal regulations mandate such "informed co ru ~nt," discu s sed below, for all federally funded research . A major criticism of Milgram's experiment, which predates the latter regulation, is that he

did not obtain prior permis s ion from s ubjects to allow him to place them in a highly stressful conflict situation.

2. Where appropriate, researchers should screen out research participants who

might be harmed by the research procedures. In their prison s imulation study, Zim­ bardo and assoc iates (Zimbardo, 1973) gave several personality tests to volunteers in order to select subjects with " normal" personality profiles and thereby minimize

the possibility of destructive effects. Another critici sm of Milgram ' s experiment is that he failed to administer examinations before the experiment to determine whether subjects suffered from psychological or physical problems that might have excluded their participation.

to assess

harm after the study, and re search participants should be informed of procedures for contacting the investigator. The debriefing session in experiments can help to assess as well as ameliorate negative reactions. But if long-lasting effects are pos­ sible, the researcher has a special obligation to conduct follow-up interviews and possibly to provide counseling. Zimbardo (1973) held an encounter session after his study to allow subjects to expre ss their feelings. He also conducted follow-up interviews to assess the impact of the experience and found no evidence of long-

3. If st ress or potential harm is pos s ible, measures should be taken

Reseo rch Ethics


lasting negative effects. Indeed , most subjects regarded the experiment as a valu­ able learning experience. Mi [gram (1974) als o carefully questioned hi s subjects , in­ terviewing all of them immediately after the experiment and sending them reports of the study and follOW-Up questionnaires asking for their reactions to their partic­ ipation in his research. His ultimate ethical justification for this research was that it was judged acceptable by those who took part in it.

Informed Consenr

The second ethical issue arises from the value placed on freedom of choice in We s t­

em societies. For moral and legal reasons, subjects should not be coerced into par­ ticipating in social research. Not only mu st subjects understand that their participa­ tion is voluntary, they must also be given enough infonnation about the research to make an informed decision about whether to participate. In other words, researchers should obtain the explicit or implicit informed consent of their subjects to take part in an investigation. Just how much information about the research must be conveyed to subjects for them to exercise their informed consent is not always clear and depends largely on the nature of the research. Full disclosure of the research purpose and procedures

is usually not necessary , although subjects generally should be given some expla­

nation of the general purpose of the research and who is s ponsoring it. Minimally, they should be told that their participation is voluntary and that they are free to withdraw from the study at any time; moreover, they must be given a clear de­ scription of the risk of hann involved and of personal rights that might be jeopar­ dized by their participation. Milgram's subjects, for example , should have been told that they would feel stress and that this stress conceivably could have harmful effects. Ethical regulations for federally funded research dictate that a written consent

form, signed by the subject or the subject's legal guardian, must be used when more than " minimal risk" of harm is anticipated. Minimal risks refer to risks that are no greater than those ordinarily encountered in daily life (Code of Federal Regulations, 1995). In such cases, informed consent protects both subjects and researchers. Sub­ jects are protected from harm by being able to make up their own mind s about the

risks of participation ; researchers are legally protected by subjects' explicit volun­ tary agreement. However, although written informed consent is accepted practice in

biomedical re search, it has several limitation s as

ways desirable in social research. As Edward Diener and Rick Crandall (1978) point out, it is often difficult, even

in biomedical research , truly to inform subjects about all the risks of research, since

these are not always known. Moreover, the subject's consent to participate does not

remove the researcher ' s responsibility to minimize danger to the subject, and it should never be used to justify other unethical practices. Finally, the use of in­ formed-consent procedures presents methodological problems for several kinds of studies. Research by Eleanor Singer (1978) has shown that requiring a signature on

a consent form reduces the response rate and elicits more socially desirable re­ sponses in surveys. And in laboratory experiments, the provision of full informa­

an ethical safeguard and is not al­


tion about the study can comp Ietely undermine its validity. As the co ncept of de­ mand characteristics imp lie s. subjec ts who ar e to ld the true purp ose of the study may not behave naturally. It is not surprising. then , that studies that convey hy­ pothesis-related information in their in formed-conse nt procedures have failed to replicate f ind ings of studies not con taini ng suc h information (Adair. Du shenkci, and Lind say, 1985). While it is clea r th at documentation of consent and full disc losur e of research purposes and procedures can present methodological problems, there are ways of circumventing these problems while following the doctrine of informed consent. In survey re search, obtai ni ng a s ignature to docu ment conse nt " seems unnecessarily

burdensome ," as Singer (1978: 15 9) has

forded respondents by the right to refu se the inte rview, or to refuse to answer par­ ti cu lar questions wi thin the interview." In fact, the Code of Federal Re g ul ations

(1995: 110) does not require

collec ted is recorded so

noted, given that the "same protection is af­

written consent for surveys unless ( I) the information

that respo nde n ts ca n be ident ified and (2 ) disclo s ure of the

information co uld place respondents at risk (or criminal or civil liability or damage re spondents' reputation (e.g. , if res pondents are asked about sensit ive topics such as sexua l behavior. dr ug ab use, illegal cond uct ). Federal reg ulations a lso provide for a waiver of documentation or an alteratio n of some of the elements of informed consent when these would adversely affect the study . However, the waiver of doc­ ument a ti on can only be made when the research involves minimal risk to subjec ts. Finally, it is common in medical a nd experimental research today to forewarn s ub­ jects th at a full disclosure of the pu rpo ses of the resea rc h is not possible until after

their participation. They might be told, in addition, that they may be in one of sev ­

that the st ud y result s would be inva lid if they knew

their assigned cond iti on prior to the co nclu sion of the research.

participant observation present the

grea te st ethical risk from the stan dpoint of informed conse nt. In

ie s, the researcher's de si re to observe subjects' spo ntaneou s and natural behavior is incompat ib le with the acquisition of consent: To obtain informed co nsent de stroys

eral treatm e nt conditions, but

Field experime nts and disguised or covert

bot h ty pes of stud­

subjec ts ' naivete and defeats


purpose of the study. Whether suc h research is re­

garded as unethi ca l depends,


some people, on ot her ethical considerations, suc h

Research Ethics

52 3

partment of Motor Vehicles by mi srepresenting himself as a market researcher , and later interviewed them in their homes after cha nging hi s appearance so th at he

would not be recognized. Des pite the fact that Humphrey s

confidentia lity of his subjects , thi s study now is considered ethically indefensible by many social scienti s ts. Among severa l o ther problem s, Hu mphreys failed to obtain hi s subjects' informed co nsent and risked doing serious damage to their

carefully guarded th e

psyches and reputations. Disguised participant observa ti o n

relatively rare and do not always pose such dangers. No matter what the appa rent risk of harm, however. this kind of research is invariably cont ro versial. In contrast

to th e relativist et hi ca l judgments about field experiments, some social scientists

take th e absolut ist po sit ion that research simply sbould not be done where investi­

gators deliberately misrepresent their identity in order to enter an o the rwi se inac­

cessib le soc ial situation. Sociologist Kai Erik so n (1967:368),

tha t this kinG of research "ca n injure people in ways we can neither ant ic ipate in

advance nor compen sate for afterward"; that it " may be painful to the people who

a re

a stranger who pretend s to be something else can disturb othe rs by failing to un­

derstand the con diti ons of intimacy that

va de. " In regard to thi s kind of research, Erikson (1967:368) also reiterates one of the most basic assump ti ons of informed conse nt:

studies such as the o ne by Humphreys are

for example, arg ue s

misled; and even if that were not the case, there are co untless ways in which

prevail in th e groups he has tri ed to in­

If wc happen to harm people who have ag reed to ac t as subjects, we c an at lea st argue that they knew something of the risk s involved and were willin g to contrib­

ute to tilal vag ue prog ram called the "advance of knowledge ." But wh e n we do so

with people who have expre ss ed no

deed , people who pre sllmably would have refused if asked direclly) , we al'e in ve ry mu ch the same ethi cal position as a phy s ician who carries out med ical ex periments on human subjec ts with o ul their con sent.

re adin es s to participate in our re searc he s (in­


as invas ion of privacy, risk of harm, and the costs incurred in terms of time and money. If the research doe s not invade the subjec ts ' privacy, is harmless. and is not

Deception, th e th ird area of ethical concern, in some ways is the most co ntrov e r­ sial. On the one hand, deception is a widely llsed and accepted practice in socia l re ­

costly to the subjects , informed consent may be eth icall y unnecessary. In this sense , testing the effects of different appeals when so liciting donations for a charitable or­

search , especia ll y empirical studi es

in experiments; one s tud y fou nd that, in 1983, 58 percent of the reported in three major socia l psychology journals used some

ga ni za tion , su ch as Robert Cialdini and Dav id Schroeder ( 1976) did in a field ex­

form of decepti on (Adair, Dushenko, and Lindsay, 1985). The most common de­

periment, would not be cons idered et hic al ly questionable, because s ubjects were not

ception involves misleading subjects or re sponde nts abo ut the

purpose of the study.

at risk and their rights were not violated. However, Latane and Darley's 1970 field


cover letter for a sur vey, for example, might indicate that the study's objec tive

experiment involving the staging of a cr ime would be e thicall y questionable be­


to examine ge neral beliefs abo ut he alth when, in fac t, the investigators are inter­

ca use subjects were exposed to cons iderab le stress and risk

of har m.

One of the most co ntroversial st udie s invol vin g cove rt participant observa tion Laud Hump hreys's st ud y (1975), mentioned in chapter 10. of sex ual encoun­ ters in public restrooms. Humphreys po sed as a voyeur and "watc hque en," whose job was to warn homosexua ls of intruders as they e ngaged in fellatio. He a lso recorded the license numbers of these men, traced their identities through the De-


ested specifica lly in their respondent s ' knowledge of and beliefs about the re la­ tionship between smok ing and lung ca ncer.

In their epileptic (1968 ) told subjec ts

faced by co ll ege students when in reality they were testing s ubject s' willingness to intervene in an emerge ncy . They also deceived subjec ts about the reasons for the

seiz ure exper iment , described in chapte r 6, Darley and Lata ne that they we re interested in the kind s of personal problems

--------------------------~~~ ----------------------------------------------------~~


experimental setup, explaining that it was necessary to separate subjects to avoid the embarrassment of face-to-face interaction and that the experimenter would not be present lest they feel inhibited by his presence. The actual reasons for these con­ ditions were to allow the experimenters to simulate the discussion of other subjects and to remove the experimenter from the scene of the emergency. Other freqllent forms of deception in experiments are using confederates to mislead subjects about research purposes and tasks, as well as providing false feedback about subjects' own behavior as a way of manipulating their feelings and thoughts. The basic rationale for deception is that it is necessary in order to pJ.ace research participants in a mental sta te where they wi/I behave naturally. If subjects know the true purpose of a study, the results are meaningless. As we have seen, subjects typi­ cally will act so as to present the most favorable impression of themselves or to help out the researcher by confirming the hypothesis. Deceiving subjects about the true pur­ pose of a study diverts their attention from the hypothesis and enhances experimental realism by giving subjects a believable and engrossing explanation for what they are doing. Defenders of deception also maintain that without it one s imply could not ef­ fectively study behavior that people nomlally find objectionable, such as aggression, confonnity, cheating, or failing to aid others in an emergency. On the other hand, there are strong and vocal opponenLs of deception. Perhaps the most vocal is psychologist Diana BaulTIrind (1985: 165), who argues that "intentional deception in the research setting is unethical, imprudent, and unwarranted scientifi­ cally." Deception is unethical, according to Baumrind , because it violates a subject's right to infonned consent (i.e., consent obtained by deceit, by definition, cannot be in­ fomled) and violates the tru st implicit in the investigator-subject relationship. It is im­ prudent because it ultimately damages the credibility of behavioral scientists as well as trust in other expert authorities. And it is unwarranted scientifically because decep­ tive practices do not accomplish the scientific objectives that justify their LIse. Baum­ rind claims that the almost routine use of deception in experiments is common knowl­ edge among some groups of subjects (presumably college students), which makes


deception may not produce the naive and spontaneous behavior that it is designed to elicit, thereby making experimental results inherently ambiguous. Despite these objections, the prevailing sentiment among social scientists is not to rule out deception entirely. The codes of ethics of both the American Psycho­ logical Association (APA) and American Sociological Association (ASA) allow for deception. Since describing the whole purpose of the study beforehand invalidates most social research , omitting such information is con s idered a mild and acceptable form of deception as long as none of the omitted infonnation concerns serious risks. However, because of the legitimate concems expressed by Baumrind and others, deceptions of greater magnitude , such as telling direct lies to subjects , using con­ federates, or deliberating misrepresenting oneself, warrant special attention. The ASA code (1997) also states that

suspicious and unlikely to

accept the experimenter' S cover story. Because of this,

(a) Sociologists do not use deceptive te chnique s (I) unles s they have determined that [it s ] use will no t be harmful to resea rch participants; [and] is ju stified by the stud y'S prospective scientific, educational, or appli ed value.

Research Ethics

(b) So c iologis ts should never deceive re sea rch participants ab out sig nifi ca nt as­

pe cts of the research that would affect th e ir willingness to participate. such as phys­

ical risk s, discomfort, or

(c) When deception is an integral feature or the design and conduct of research. so ­

ciologists attemplto correct any miscon cep tion that re search participant s may ha ve

no later than at the conclusion of the research.

unpleasant emotional experience s.


John Adair and colleague s (1985) point OLlt that the negative consequences in deception research are usually minimal and that there is a lack of viable alternative methodologies. Therefore, the deception dilemma may be rectified best by the ASA's point (c)-adequate debriefing.

Debriefing. Debriefing serves methodological and educational as well as eth­ ical purposes; ideally, it should occur in all studies with human participants , not just those studies involving deception. By interviewing subjects after their participation, researchers may gain valuable information about subjects' interpretations of re­

by understanding the nature of the study , subjects

can gain a greater appreciation for their research experience. If subjects are de­

ceived, however, then the debriefing session becomes critically important. Not only must the researcher explain the true purpose of the study and the reasons for the de­ ception, he or she must do so with great care and sensitivity. Researchers must be alert to the fact that, when exposed to the truth, subjects may feel embarrassed or angered about having been "fooled" and may harbor re­ sentment toward the investigator and toward social research in general. To obviate such feelings, investigators have developed elaborate debriefing techniques (see Carlsmith, Ellsworth, and Aronson, 1976; Mills, 1976). While we will not describe

these techniques in detail, certain common asp ec ts

to debrief subjects as soon after their participation as possible, especiall y if the de­

ception or its revelation is likely to cause discomfort. Second, the debriefing should be carried out slowly and deliberately, first eliciting subjects ' reactions and then graduaJIy explaining the nature of the experiment until subjects fully understa nd every point. Third, since negative feelings about being deceived are worsened when the deceiver is smug about it, researchers can relieve some of their subjects' dis­

comfort by expressing their own discomfort about the necessity of using deception in order to arrive at the "truth." Fourth, researchers should point out to s ubjects that if the experiment works well-if the cover story is convincing- then virtually

everyone gets fooled. Finally , above a1l , researchers should follow Herbert

man's (1968:222) guideline "that a subject ought not to leave the laboratory with greater anxiety or lower self-esteem than he [or she] came in with." Research on the effects of deception and debriefing indicates that, in general, carefully administered debriefing is effective. Stevens Smith and Deborah Rich ard­ son (1983) found that subjects who were deceived and subsequently debriefed re­ ported more positive experiences-for example, greater enjoyment and greater ed­ ucational benefit-from their research participation than did subjects who were not deceived and, as a consequence, received le ss adequate debriefing. Indeed, the fi­ nal word on deception may be the finding of another study of subjects' reactions:

deserve mention. First, it is best

search procedures; furthermore,



"li]l appears that subje cts

are willing to acce pt


tolerate ce rtain di sco mfiture s or

unplea sa ntri es if they are viewed

as necessary

e le ments of a scientific ent e rpri se.

Thus , lea rning that they had been


enhanced the subj ect ' s assessment

of the experiment's good soc ial science

sc ientifi c value; elaborat e deception s are apparent ly viewed as

methodologyl " (Straits. Wuebben , and Majka. 1972 :515)


The idea of the right to privacy goes back to antiquity. For examp le , Hippocrates'

I see or hear, in the life of m en, which ought not to

be s pok e n of abroad, r will not di vulge as reckon ing that all such s hould be kept secret." Despite its ancient origins, however, the moral claim to privacy was not

right until the last few ce nturies. The Industrial

widely respected as a fundamental

oath promi ses: " Whatever

Revolution made physical privacy possible, and political democracie s granted and increasingly protected the privacy of individual belief and opinion (Ruebhausen and

Brim, 1966). Today, invas ion of privacy remains a public concern as a result of widely publicized accounts of government wiretapping, police entrapment, and cor­ porate drug testing .

The right to privacy is the individual's right to decide when , where, to whom, and to what extent his or her attitudes, beliefs, and behavior will be revealed. So­ cial research presents many possibilities for invading the privacy of re sea rch par­ ticipant s, and it is essential that researchers be sens itive to the ways in which their actions can violate this basic right. The dramatic case of the Wichita Jury Study in 1954 s how s how social research can come into direct conflict with the value of privacy (Vaughan, 1967). In an ef­ fort to understand and perhaps even improve the operations of juries, researchers

in Wichita,

of the jurors. When news of the study became

known, it was roundly criticized by columnists and commentators across the coun­ try , was investigated by a Senate subcommittee, and led ultimately to the passage

of a law proh ibiting the recording of jury deliberations. The argument against thi s

study was that jury deliberations mu st be sacrosanct to pro tect the inalienable right

to trial by impartial jury. Surveillance "threatens impartiality to the extent that it in­ troduces any question of possib le emba rrassment, coercion, or other such consider­ ations into the minds of actual jurors" (Vaughan, 1967:72). As thi s study shows, one way in which subjects' privacy can be invaded is

through the use of concealed devices suc h as one-way mirrors, microphone s, and camera s. If such devices are used with subjec ts' knowledge and consent, they pose no problem . If they are use d without subject's knowledge to record behavior in pub­ lic places (e.g. , restaurants and waiting rooms), they also are acceptable to many re­ searchers so long as su bject s remain anonymous and are not at ri s k. But when hid­ den recording devices are used to observe behavior in private settings to which the research participant would not ordinarily allow the researcher access, an invasion of privacy occurs. Besides juries, other settings that are considered private are home s, persona l offices, closed meetings, and phy sicia ns' examining rooms (Diener and Crandall, 1978)

secured the permission of jud ges Kan sas, without the knowledge

to record s ix actual jury deliberations

Research Ethics


Closely related to the use of concea led recording devices is the use of a false

cover to gain in for ma tion that subjects would not revea l if their informed consent were obtained. Thi s became a major problem in the second phase of Laud Humphreys 's study, mentioned above , when he got the name s of men he had ob­ served performing homosexual acts and interviewed them in their homes. When Humphreys observed these men in public restrooms, he did not know their names or other detail s of their private lives. But the identifying information he subse­

quently obtained intruded on his s ubjects' priv ac y and, in the worst

of c ircum­ physician s,

soc ial sc ienti sts are su bject to subpoena and cannot promi se

their respondents legal immunity.) Whether we define access to information as an invasion of privacy will depend

is. Humphreys 's researc h drew attention not just

becau se he used que stion ab le means to procure information, but also because he was investigating a sensitive area-sexual behavior. Clearly, some infonnation is considered more pri vate or sens itive than others. Among the most sensitive and

behavior and illegal activities. Researchers investigat­

ing the se areas have a special obligation to protect the privacy of their informants.

stances, could have led lawyers, and the clergy,

to legal difficulties or even blackmail. (U nlike

on how private that information

threatening areas are sex ual

Anonymity and confidentiality. No matter how sensitive the information ,

however , ethical inve s ti ga tors protect the right to privacy by g uaranteein g anonymity or confidentiality. Obviously, infollnation given anonymously secures the privacy of individuals, but this safeguard is usua lly possible only in surveys using self­

administered quest ionnaires without names attached or in some available

ies. Most often the investigator can identify each individual's responses; therefore, the principal means of protecting research participants ' privacy is to ensure confi­ dentiality. The researcher can do this in a variety of ways: by removing names and other identifying information from the data as soon as possible , by not disclosing individuals' identities in any reports of the study , and by not divulging the infor­ mation to persons or organizations requesting it without th e re search participant 's

permission. Laud Humphreys defended his research partly in terms of the steps he took to e nsure confidentiality, such as destroying all data containing personally identifying info rmation after the completion of his study. Likewise, the researchers in the Wichita Jury Study acted to protect privacy by destroying th e original recording of each jury deliberation after transcribing the recording and editing the transcript so as to avoid the identification of any of the persons involved. The Census Bureau protects confidentiality in a variety of ways, for example, by not releasing individ­ ual responses to the censu s of population and housing for seven ty-two years-a per­ son's average lifetime- and, when releasing the Public Use Microdata Sample, sup­ pressing identifying information. Field resea rch usually requires more ingenuity to safeguard anonymity and con­

use fictitious name s for individual s, groups ,

and locations, although thi s alone may not be sufficient to prevent people from rec­ ognizing themselves and others. For example , in a study of the community of " Spring­ dale ," a small town in up s tate New York, the researchers promised their informants

data stud­

fidentiality. The traditional

a pproach is to


that no individuals would be identified in printed reports. However, when Arthur Vidich and Jose ph Ben sman ( 195 8) published their researc h in a book, the people of the town could clearly identify each character in spite of the au th ors' use of pseudo­ nyms. The townspeople were so ou traged by the transparency of th ei r characteriza­ tions and the consequent invasion of their privacy that they featured a t10at in the an­

nual Fourth of July parade with a large-sca le

Town in Mass Society. Thi s was followed first by residents "riding masked in cars la­ beled with the fictitious names g iven them in the book" and then by a manure spreader, with an effigy of the au thor Vidich bending over the manure (Whyte , 1958). Because Vidich and Bensman reported private material without protecting the anonymity or obtaining the consent of their informants, they were severely cri ti­ cized by other social scientists. To remove the possibility of recognition, the au­ th o rs might have altered some of the information about people, such as th e ir fam­

ily backgro und , occupation, or other intimate details of their lives, or they might have developed composite characters based on more than one inform a nt. Perhaps

the be st so lution , however , is to ask th e s ubjects themselves if the material consid­

is acceptable to them . This is the strategy

adopted by B e tt y lou Valentine in her s tudy of a community called "B lac ks ton. " Valentine (1978: 166) believed th a t so me intimate details of people's lives in­ volving family size, family struc ture, and intenelationships were relev ant to im­ portant points she wanted to make. She "did not see how it would be possible to disguise the people enough to make them unrecognizable even to themselves and at the same time accurately illustrative of the Blackston community." Therefore, af­ ter she had completed a draft of her manuscript, she sent copies to all the major characters. She explained that her story mi g ht be published in the future , a nd she asked each person (1) whether her acco unt was accurate and fair; (2) whether any material would be embarrassing to anyone ; and (3) whether they had a ny com­ ments, conections, or other reactions. Finally, she subsequently returned to Blacks­ ton to talk to several of the persons involved. As a result of the se co ntacts, Valen­ tine not only worked out additional disguises that protected the privacy of her informa nts but also gained valuable in s ights and s uggestion s for her book.

ered for presentation or publica tion

copy of the jacket of the book, Small

Making Ethical Decisions

Ethical is sues arise in social research when conf] icts occur between socie tal values

such as freedom and privacy and sc ientific methods aimed at obtaining the highe st quality data. In the preceding sections we have identified some areas of potential conflict-harm to participants, involuntary pal1icipation, intentional deception, and an invas ion of privacy. We also have examined some current resolutions of these ethi ca l issues. It should be clear from our discussion th at there are no easy a nswers; indeed, frequently there is considerable disagreement among reviewers about the

ethicality of

research proposals that raise ethical issues (Ceci , Peters, and Plotkin,

1985). With this in mind, how does the re searcher decide what to do? Some socia l sc ienti sts, such as Diana Ba um rind (197 J:890), take the pos ition that "sc ientifi c ends, however laudable they may be," should never justify the use of means, suc h as lying to subjects, that violate fundamental moral principles or

Research Ethics


sacrifice the welfare of research participants. In philosophy , this ethical position is

known as deontology: Basic moral principles sho uld allow no

ter what the consequences. By contrast , the operating ethical philosophy of most social scientists today-the philosophy behind professional ethical codes and fed­ eral ethical guidelines for res earch-is basically teleological: The morality of ac ts should be judged in relation to the ends they serve. The overall g uiding principle is that "the potential benefits of the research (e.g., advancement of sc ientifi c knowl­ edge, beneficial tech nological applica tion s, advantages to s ubjects) must be weighed

exceptions, no mat­

aga inst the potential costs (e.g., harm to subjects, detrimental technological app li ­

cations )" (Schle nker an d Fo rsy th, 1977:371-72) . As we saw in our discussion

harm, cos t-benefi t analyses do not always help to resolve ethical dilemm as . No ne ­ theless , it is from this guidi ng cost-benefit principle that o ther rules for the conduct of social research have been derived:


The se include obla ining informed consent; remaining ope n and hone st with the

part icip ants; respecting the participants' freedom to decline participation; insuring the confidentiality of th e participants ' dat a; protecting the participants from phy s­ ical and mental discomfort, harm, and danger; completely debriefing the partici­ pants; and removing allY undesirable effects of the research. (Schlenker and Forsyth,


Although exceptions sometimes are made to th ese rules, t hese exceptions must be based on a careful a na lysis of th e possible benefits and co s ts of the stud y.

the ethics of a

s tudy and it s prospective be~efits and costs. Of course, when attempting to make difficult ethical decisions , it is always a good idea to solicit others' opinions. Celia

of par­

ticipant s, especially in deception re search. To assess tl1e potential impact of decep­ tion as well as enhance the protection of s ubjects, they propose that re sear chers s ur­ vey prospective participants on ethical issues at th e initial stages of planning a study . Subjects could be asked, for example, about the sc ienti fic value of the study , the relative advantage of deception and alternative procedures, their psychological reactions to experimental manipulations, and the efficacy of debrie fin g procedures in a ll evia tin g psychological discomfort. In thi s way, research participants become partners in the process of ethical decision making.

Increas ingly, however, be conducted re sts not with

viewing research proposals involving the use of hum an (and animal) subjects. The Department of Health a nd Human Services (DHHS) , as well as most other federal agencies, institutes, and foundations, requires the approval of a;. resea rch propos­ als by a human subjects com mittee (called an institutionaJ review board , o r IRB ) as a precondition for the release of its funds. Virtually every college and university in the United States a nd mo s t tax-exe mpt private research foundations have IRBs. And, in recent years, these in st itutions increasin g ly have mandated the IRB ap­

proval of all research involving human participants , not juS! research funded by the federal government (Singer and Levine, 2003).

initially , the individual re sea rch er

is responsible for exa mining

Fi s her and Denise Fryberg ( 1994) argue that thi s shou ld include the opinions


ultima te decision abo ut whether a given study will

the researcher but with a committee re sponsi ble for re­


According to feder a l regulation s (C ode of Federal Re g ul a ti o ns, 1995), each IRB has at le as t five members, with va ryin g backgrounds th a t e ns ure th e adequate re vie w of research prop osa ls. To provide a diversity of experti se, the membe rs mu st

inc lude a t leas t o ne no nsc ienti st (s uc h as a la wye r, ethicist, or member of the clergy ) and at le as t o ne me mber no t affili a ted with the research institution, as well as per­ so ns competent to review spec ific re sea rc h activities (s uc h as a soc ial scie nti st in

do c uments to the IRB that

de scri be th e propo sed re searc h a nd spec ifica ll y o utline how research participants'

ri ght s are to be protected, s uch as provi s ions for informed con sen t and measures to

ensure confidentia lit y. IRB s then approve , modify , or di sa pp rove the re searc h ac­ cord in g to their interpreta ti on of fe der a l regulatio ns outlined by DHHS .

cal codes for the

treatment of re search particip ant s develope d by profe ss iona l soc ieties . Box 16 . 1 provides excerpts from the ethic al co des of three such societie s: the Amer ican An­ throp ologica l Association ( 1998), th e American Psychological Assoc iati on (2002), and the American Soc iol ogica l As sociation (1997). These codes cove r ethical re­

also to the profe ss io n, the public, and

s ponsib il it ies not on l y to th ose studi ed, but

student s. In th e next sect io n, we exami ne et hical responsibilities to soc iety .

the case of soc ia l researc h). In vestiga to rs submit written

Be s ide s federal re g ul atio ns, socia l sc ientists are guided by e thi

BOX 16.1 Codes of Professional Ethics

Th e fo llowing swte me nts are exce rpt s fro m th e profes s codes of e thi cs of three nat iona l organ iza tions: th e Am e ri c an Anthropological As sociation (A AA ), th e Amer­ ican Psyc ho logica l A ssoc ia ti o n (MA ), 3nd the American Sociolo g ica l Association (ASA). You ca n read th e co mplet e cod es of e thi cs by vis itin g th e ir Web s ites.

Professional Practice in the Conduct of Research

Anthro polog ica l resea rche rs bear respo ns ibilit y

Thu s anthrop o log ica l researchers

a re

sho uld no t dece ive o r kn owi ng ly mi s repre se nt (i.e., fabricate evid e nce, fa ls ify , pla­

g iari ze), o r allempt to prevent repon in g of misconduct, or obs tru c t th e sc ie n­ tific /sc ho larl y resea rch o f others. (AA A)

seek to pro mote acc ura cy, honesty. and truthfulnes s in the

sc ience

or engag e in fra ud , subterfuge, or intent iona l misrepresentation of fact. Psyc hologists do not fab ricate data. [f psycholog ists d iscover significant erro rs in the ir pub lished data, they tak e reasonable s teps to cor re ct s uch errors in a correcti on, retraction, e rrat um, or

of psyc ho logy. [n the se activi ties psychologists do not steal, cheat,

for the integrity and reput a ti on of

th ei r discip line, of sc holarshi p, and o f

sc ience.

s ubj ec t to the ge ne ra l mo ral I1lles of sci entific and scholarly co ndu ct: Th ey

Psyc ho logis ts

other ap proPJiate pub li catio n mean s. Psycho log ists do not present portio ns of 3nother·s work or data as the ir (A PA )

ow n

Research Elhi cs

Socio logists ~dhere to the highest scien tific and profes.,ional standards and

accept respo ns ibilit y fo r th eir work.

[n planning and impl eme nting rese arch, soc iologi ."s minimize th e possibi l­

ity th a t res ult s wi ll be misl ea ding.

pre se

Sociologists do no t fabricate data or fal s ify nLa ti o ns.

[n presen tin g the ir work, sociologists report thei r findin gs full y and do no t

res ult s in th eir publica ti o ns o r

omi t relevant data.

The y repo rt res ult s whether they supp ort or co ntrad ict th e

ex ­

pected outcomes.

Sociologists take

par ticular care to state a ll re leva nt qualifi ca tion s o n

th e

finding s and interp reta ti o n of their researc h. Soc io log ists disc lose unde rly in g

as ­

sumptions, theori es, methods , mea su re s, lIpon findings and in terpreta tion s o f their

an.d resea rc h de sig ns that might be a r

wo rk. (ASA)

Treatment of Research Participants

Anthr opo log ica l resea rch e rs mu st do eve rythin g in th e ir power to e ns ure th at th e ir researc h does not harm th e safet y, di gnit y, o r pr ivacy of th e people wit h who m the y work, co ndu c t re sea rc h. o r perfo rm othe r profe ss io na l ac tivities. Anthropo log ica l researc he rs mu st determin e in adva nce whe th e r their

remain a no ny mous or receive recogn it ion, th ose wis hes. Resea rchers mu s t present to

make clear

the ir resea rch pa rti c ip a nt s th e poss ible imp ac ts o f th e c hoices, and

that des pite the ir bes t effort s, anonymity may be compr ised or recognition fa il to ma te ri a li ze.

hos ts/pro vid e rs o f info rm ati on wis h to and make eve ry e ffo rt to comp ly wi th


A nth ropo logica l resea l·c hers s ho uld obtain in ~dvance

th e

informed consent


perso ns being stu d ied


Wh e n psychologists conduct research

th ey ob tai n



co nse nt


th e indi vidu a l o r indi using language

th at is reaso nably under sta ndabl e


th a t perso n o r perso ns excep t when conducting such ac tivities

withou t com,ent


manda ted by law o r gove rn mental regul a tion o r as otherwise

provided in this

Ethical Code. Psycho logists disc uss with persons

and organizations with whom they es ­

tablish a sc ientifrc

seeable lIse s of the info rmation gene rated through their psychologica l ac ti vi ties . Psyc ho logi sts clo no t co nduct a stud y involving decep ti on unless th ey have determined that the use of deceptive technique s is justifi ed by th e study's s ig­ nifi ca nt prospect ive sc ientific, edu ca ti ona l, or applied va lue a nd th a t effective nond ece pti ve a lt e rn ati ve procedures al·e not feasible .

Psyc ho log ists do not dece ive pro specti ve rea so nab ly expected to ca use physical pain or

Psyc holog ists exp la in any deception that is an integra l fea ture of the de sig n

expe riment to participant s as earl y as is feas ible, preferabl y at their participation , but no late r th an a t th e co nc lu s ion of the

data co llec tion, a nd permit parti cipa nt s to w ithdraw th e ir data. (A PA )

an ob li gatio n to ensure th at co nfid e ntial in fo rmati o n is

and co ndu ct o f an th e co nc lu s ion of

participan ts abo ut resea rch that is severe em oti o nal di stress.

relationsh ip the relevant limit s of confidentiality and the fore­

Soc io log ists have protected. Informed co nse nt

populations. Soc io log ists take steps to implement protec tion s fo r the rights and welfare

of re searc h parti c ipa nts a nd o ther perso ns affect ed by th e I·esea rc h.

is a basic et hi ca l te ne t of sc ie nti fic researc h o n hum an

53 1


In their rc st:J rch, soc iol og ists do no t encoura ge acti vities

o r them se lves be­

hav e in ways

that ar e h ea lth- or life -threa te nin g to re s ear c h

participant s or

others. (ASA)

Responsibility to the Public

A nthropo logi ca l resea rchers s hould make the re s ults o f their re sea rch appropriat e ly

available to sponsors. s tudents, deci si on makers, and o ther no nanthropol og is ts. In

d oin g so, th ey mu s t be truthful ; they

te nt

plic atio ns of the info rmati o n the y di ss eminate. They mu s t do eve rythin g in the ir

power to in s ure that s uch information is we ll unders to od,

and re s pon s ibl y utilized. They sho uld make cl e ar th e e mpirica l b ases up o n which the ir repo rt s s tand , be candid ab o ut their qualiflc atio ns a nd philosophical or polit­ ica l bi ase s , and recog nize und make clear the limit s of anthropological expertise. At th e sam e time , they mu s t be alert to possible harm their informati o n may cause

people wi th wh o m they wor' k or co llea g ue s. (AA A ) P syc hol og ists are co mmitted to in c re as in g scie ntific and professio na l kn ow l­ edge o f behavior and people 's unde rstandin g of themselve s and others a nd to the use of s uch knowl e dge to improve th e co nditi o n of individuals, organizations,

are not only res pons ible fo r the fa c tual con­

co nsid e r carefully th e soc ial and

political im­

pro pe rly co nt e xtuali ze d,

of tlleir s tate ment s but a lso mu st



They strive to help the publi c in de velop in g

informed jud g ment s

a nd c ho ic e s concerning humJn bel lav io r. If psycho log ists learn of misuse o r misreprese ntati o n of

their work. they take

re aso nable ste ps to co rre ct or minimi ze the misu se Sociologists a re awa re of their professional

th e co mmunitie s a nd soc ie tie s in whi c h the y live aod work. Th ey apply a nd make public their kn ow led ge in o rd e r to contribute to the public good. Wh e n under­

re se arc h , the y s tri ve to ad vance the sc ien ce of sociol ogy and to s er ve th e

public good. (ASA)

tak in g

o r misrepresentation . (APA) and sc ie nt if ic re spo nsibilit y to

S o ur ce: American A nthropo log ic al Association ( 199 8) . American Psyc ho logic al Association

(2002), co py right

ical As soc iat ion ( 1997). Reproduced by permiss ion. Not for further rep rod uc tion.

© 2002 by th e A me ri ca n P syc ho lo g ica l As soc iation , and American Sociolog­

The Uses of Research: Science and Society

The Issue of Value-Neutrality

Social sc ienti sts have become increasingly sensitive not only to the ethical impli­ cations of their work for research participants but a lso to its moral and ideological implications for the larger society. In the interest of promoting the scientific side of social research, some people once held that social science should be "value-free." According to thi s po s ition (Lundberg, 1961 ), we ca n and should make a s harp dis­ tinction between the roles of scientist and citizen. Science is nonmoral. The meth­ ods of sc ience are designed to eliminate personal preferences and values; and " there

is nothing in sc ientific wo rk, as su c h, which dictates to what ends the produ c ts of

only imp e rative is "to say

what they know"-to present rele vant finding s and theoretic al interpretations. in

science sh a ll be used"

(Lundberg, 1961 :3 2 ).


Research £lilies


e x­

ample , a gainst nucle a r weapons, ac id rain , or racial o ppres sio n. But if soc ial sc ien­

tists are to be take n se ri o usly as

that of ci ti ze n a nd should not let their p erso nal values affect their research. Thi s value-free ideology is no longer tenable for tw o m a in reasons. First, it is now clear that va lues have a substantial influence on the research process. Personal values and political beliefs inevitably affe c t how sc ientists select and conceptualize problem s and how they interpret their findin gs . As we noted in chapter 3, many

nonscientific factor s a ffec t problem selection: perso nal interests a nd ideologies, the

their ca pacit y as c itizen s, scientists may take mo ral pos ition s, campa ignin g, for

sc ientist ;; , they should not c on f u s e this role with

a vailability of funding, the climate of opinion in soc iety, research fad s and fas hion s. Simil ar fac tors affect the perspective that researchers take and the kind s of ques ­ tion s th e y ask, which in turn determine the kind s of answers they will find. When

during World War I, the preva il­

ing belief in bo th scientific and nonsci entifi c ci rcl e s was th at ethnic g roups mi grat­

Il1g from sou thern and eastern Europe were inferior to earlier immigrant groups. Con sequently, when the fo rmer groups scored consi stently lower th a n Ameri can s of northem and western European ancestry, this was seen not only as proof of e x­ is ting beliefs about ethnic di fference s but al so as a validation of the tests as mea­

sures of inna te intelligence . Of course, neither of these interpretation s is acceptable

perspective led them to focus on the s ocial

environment, have demonstrated conclusively the effects of language, culture, and soc ioeco nomic factors on te s t score s. The va lue-free ideology a lle ges th a t as scientists, soc ial researchers can remain

neutr al in acc umulating fact s about soc ial life that a re of equal utility to Democr a ts

an d Republicans , liberal s and

is that while claiming to be value-neutral seemingly protects the sci enti st' s self­

interes t and

ues, su ch as those of research sponsors or a nyone else who chooses to use their find­ ings. Tho se who advocated complete value neutrality took physical sc ienti sts as

their modeJ , cl a imin g that the se "real " sc ienti s ts could serve e qu ally well under fascistic or democratic political regimes (Lundberg, 1961). But the moral ba nk­ ruptcy of this p o sition come s into s harpest foc u s when we consider such "real" sc i­ entists under the Nazi regime. German physi c ians , apparently operating out of a

and ,

III the conduct of sterilization experiments,

today would argue that

charges through femal e

ovaries" (Gray , 1968 ) . This e xa mple is ex trem e; no one

today because social scienti s ts, whose

IQ te sts were fi rs t administered on a large scale

co nservatives. The second problem with this position

autonomy, in e ffect it places researchers in the service of others' val ­

value-free model of sc ience, "sys tematically froze human beings in tub s of ice

sen t electrical

valu e ne utrality ju stifie s harming others. More to the point, sci enti sts have come to realize that they bear some responsibility for applic at ions of their research. Physi­ cists who worked on the atomic bomb did not do so out of a value-free ideology, but o ut of patriotism and a be lief that Japan and Germany had to be stopped. How­

ev e r,

ctally after they sa w its de stru c ti ve effects.

many of them had seco nd thoughts about helping to build the bomb, espe­

Both of these problems o f maintaining value neutrality are exacerbated for so­ cial scientis ts, who typically study pro bl.em s tha t have imm e di ate relevance to peo­

ple's lives. Indeed , m o re often than

o f pa rti c ul a r phenomena for their so cia l a s well

c ial re searcher is drawn to the s tudy

th e a st ronomer or c hemi s t or ph ys icis t, the so ­




as th e ir scientific significance. The nature of the problems se lected and the moti­

vat ion to study th em are inherently value laden in

th erefore, must be awa re not on ly of the innuence of personal values and political preferences on their ow n work , but a lso of the implications of th ei r fi ndin gs for con­

. Among social scie nti sts, anthropol og ists probably have been most keenly aware of the im pact of va lu es on the research process. Th ey de ve loped th e sens itizin g con ­

cep t of " cultural relativity" to guard agai nst the tendency to judge

relation to one's own c ultural world view . Cultural relativity is the idea th at c ultura l values-sta nd ards of truth , morality, beauty, correc t behavio r, and so forth-vary

widely and mu st be j udged in relati on to a given society . In addition, anthropo logi sts also have pointed out the imp o rt ance of language-that W es tern sc ientifi c language

m ay

therefo re

( 1967) pointed out th at researc h sym p a thies , but that the way to

is always contaminated by perso nal and po li tical

de a l with this is not to forsake the stand ards o f good sc ientifi c work and take s id es,

but ra ther to consider ca refull y " w hose s id e we are on." B ecke r had in researchers, who often study the " underdog"-the devi ant , oppressed,

nate . In try in g to unde rstand reality from the

may become sympat hetic with th a t po int of view , which us ually is contr a ry to the

H ow ­

ever th is does not mean th at one should a lways present all sides or s hou ld avoid takiJ~g s ide s . The se op tion s a re se ldom, if ever, possible. Wh a t we should do, ac ­ cord ing to Becker, is admit to w hose s ide we are o n, use our theori es and techniques imparti ally-takin g precautionary me asu re s de s ig ned to g ua rd aga in s t bias-and make "clear the limits of what we have studied, marking the boundaries beyond whic h our findings cannot be safely ap plied" (Becker, 1967:247). Part of this "so­

accepted vi ew of th e co nventio na l, econ om ica lly we ll- off, or s upe rordin ate.

struc tive o r

social researc h . Social scientists,

de s tructive use by ot he rs.

o ther cultures in

not be ap propri ate for "t ransla tin g" the behavior of a not her culture a nd th at it is

necessary to unde rsta nd how s ubjects perceive th e world in their ow n telm s.



similar vein, soc io logist Howard Becker

s ubjec ts ' perspect ive, field

mind fie ld or subordi­ researchers

ciological di sclaimer ," Becker believes, sho uld be a s tatement

in w hi c h we say, fo r in stance, that we have s tudi e d

the inmates and not thro ugh th e eyes o f the g ua rds or o th er involved parties . W e

thin gs loo k fro m that van tage

po int-wha t kind s o f objec ts guards are in the pri so ners' world-ano does not at­

tempt to ex plain why guards do what they do or to absolve the guards of what may see m , from th e pr isone rs ' s ide, morally un acceptabl e behavi o r. ( p. 247)

warn peop le , thu s, tha t o ur stud y tells us on ly

the prison th ro u g h the eyes of


Becker does not argue that soc ial sc ienti sts should sta nd pat with their "o ne­ sided" views of re a lity. In fact, he sees the lo ng- term so lution to an e nlarged un­

d ers ta ndin g of in s tituti o ns as th e acc u m ul a ti o n of many one-sided but di ffere nt views of reality. This pos itio n is analogous to th e methodologic a l principle of tri­ anaulation introduced in chapter 12 . H owe ver, whereas befo re we sugge s ted vari­ ou~tria na ula tio n tec hniques as ways of e limin a tin g methodological bi ases a nd er­ rors, h er: we s ugges t that these tec hniques also might be used to s hed li g ht o n perso nal values that may be embedded in a particular methodological approach or view of reali ty.

Research Ethics

Th e App li ca ti on of Research Finding s


For many soc ia l scientists, guarding agai nst the intru sio n of values in re searc h and

o ne's e thical re­

spo nsibility to soc iety. We a lso must be awa re of and, some be li eve, provide di­

recti o n to how o ther s use

products of social scie nce will be used by others. Th ey al ready have had and will con tinue to have a major impact on soc ial policy. To cite one prominent example ,

the Supreme Court decis io n of 1954 ( Brown v. Boa rd of Educat ion of Topeka),

soc ial scie nce findin gs. There is little question that the

ca re fu lly noting the limitatio n s of conclusions a re no t the extent of

which declared that separate

herently unequal, was based in large part on opini o n cited several stud ies showing that

logical effect on black children. Since thi s deci sion . socia l scienti sts have co ntinued to be among the sta unchest

a nd mo st vocal supporters of integration a nd civil rights, with many test ify ing in

cas es inv o lving

ars h ave taken the initia tive in offering th ei r ex pert adv ice in a re as of soc ial policy.

For the most paJ1, they have attempted to show how social sc ience fin din gs sup­ ported positions that most o f their colleagues fav ored, and their political involve­

me nt is nonc ontrov e rs ia l. The hard e th ical debate concerns how much respo n sibil­

ity re searcher s bear sc ientifi c a nd publi c

bomb. Should o ne try to fo resee po ssible mi suses a nd ab uses of scientific finding s?

If one can for esee mi s u se or a buse , s ho uld th e re search be co ndu c ted at all ') A nd if

s uc h resea rch is conducted,

ho w act iv e a role sh o uld the re searcher play in the di s­ Is the re search er re s pon sible for the way inform at ion is th e p ubl ic's reac tion')

The most controversial studi es in the an na ls of soc ial sc ience ra ise ju st the se is­

multimillion-dollar re searc h study funded by th e

U.S. Army, was des igned to measure an d forecas t the causes of revo lution and ins ur­ ge ncy in underdeveloped areas of the world (Horowitz, 1967). B eca use of its huge

s ues . For example , Proj ec t Camelot, a

se min a tion of presented a nd

edu ca ti o nal t'aci liti es for blacks and whites we re in­

socia l scie nce findings . The unanim o us segregatio n had a de trime ntal psycho­

sc hoo l desegrega ti o n, bu s ing , and affirmative action. Th ese sc ho l­

for applications that are destructive or co ntrary to prevai li ng sen timent. That i s the ques ti on that phy s ici s ts debated a fter th e



finding s') asse ss in g

team o f re spec ted soc ial sc ie nt ists. Some, seeing the

project as an unpreced ented opportu nity to do fundamental research on a grand scale, may no t hav e inquired too deeply in to the ultimate purpose of the project. O thers be ­

li eve d for vario us rea so ns that they were , in no sense, "se llin g o ut " to the military. Th ey believed that th ey would have great freedom in handlin g the project, th at there was a possibility of im provin g conditions in underdeveloped na ti ons, a nd tha t they could have

a n enlightening influence o n the

to en v i­

sion was the " uses to which the United States Army or Central Intelligence Agency

reg im es hostile to

the United States. They fail ed to recognize the gr ave concern tho se in o ther countries

would have over s uch poten ti al uses" ( Di e ner a nd Crandall , 1978: I 08) . Indeed , in July

of 1965 , se ve n mo nth s after th e

projec t be gan, after its re velation made it a cause

cou ld have put the info rmati o n, s uch as fos te rin g revolution s aga in st


the project drew a large

military ( H orow itz, 1967). What the y failed

celebre in Chile, Project Camelot was canceled by th e D efe nse Department. It is prec ise ly thi s potential (and act ual ) abuse of findin gs tha t led man y social sc ienti s ts to co ndemn the researc h of educationa l psychologist Arthur Jen sen. In




, Arthur Jensen (1969) publi shed an article in the HarFard Educational

Re Fie\\'

entitled " Ho w an We Boost IQ and Scholastic Achie ve ment ')" In argllin g

that IQ

difference s ac ­ th at no amount

of compensatory education could undo this difference . Such a view had not been

propounded in re spectable acad emic circles for many years prior to Jensen 's aI1i­

cle; as a re sult, the article created a furor. Many scholars severely criticized Jen sen 's

conclusions on methodological grounds. But the point here is that Jensen apparently

fa iled to con sider the uses to which his article

wa s opposed to segregation and argued that his research suggested the need for ed­ uca tional programs tailored to individual differences (Edson, J970) , others seized upon Jensen' s re sea rch to oppose integration. Le ss th an a week after a report of his

article made headlines in Virginia ne wspapers, defense attorneys quoted heavily from Jensen' s article in a suit in federal di st rict court to inte grate schools in two Virginia counties (Brazziel, 1969). Their main argument was that differences in in­ telli gence between whites and blacks were innate; that white teachers co uld not un­ der stand bl ac ks ; and that black children sh o uld be admitted to white schools strictly on the basis of standardized tests . Still another, more recent st udy demon strate s the ethical tightrope that re­ searchers traverse when their re search concems an importan t policy is s ue. Lawren ce

Sherman and Ri chard Be rk (1984) were duly circumspect about the

c ations of their dome stic violence experiment, reported in c hapt e rs 12 a nd 13, which showed that arrest reduced the likelihood of a repeat offense. Th e clearest implication was that police should no longer be reluctant to make arrests in do­ mestic assault cas es. But Sherm an and Berk also ca utioned against routinely re­ quiring arrests in such cases. They noted the unique features of the jurisdiction of the study and concluded that, even if their finding s were replicated in other juris­ dictions, arrest may work better for certain types of offenders and in certain types of situations . Still, many activists, law professors, an d others who favored manda­

tory arrest laws attacked Sherman and Berk' s position on the policy implications of their study (Sherman, 1993). At the same time, others were critical of Sherman in

particular because they perce ived his dissemination of the study'S re sults to the me­ dia as an effort to innuence policy toward mandatory arrest (Binder and Meeker,

when replication experiments

failed to show consistent benefic ial effects of arrest. [See Sherman ( 1993 ) an d Berk (1993) for rejoinders to this criticism.]

Wh a t are th e ethical implications of such controversie s ,) First , social scientists have an obligation to consider how their findings will be used. Re search tllat is clearly intended to be exploitative, such as management-sponsored research in­ tended to quiet labor union s, should not be done (Diener and Crandall, 1978). Se c­ ond , given that eventual applications us ually are unknown, sc ienti sts should di s­ seminate knowledge to the widest po ss ible audience, to increase public knowledge and encourage debate, so that no one group can exploit the knowledge for its own welfare (Diener and Crandall, 1978). Third, when research has obvious and imme­ diate application s, as ill applied and evaluation research, scientists ha ve a special

obligation to promote

was determined largely by heredity, Jen se n counted for the highe r scores of whites than

concluded that genetic blacks on IQ tests, and

might be put. Although he himself

policy impli­

1993 ). The latter critics became es peci a lly vocal

actively appropriate use s and to pre vent mi s use s of their find­

Re search Erh ics


. From thi s standpoint, we believe that Sherman and Be rk were ethically re­

Ings. (ble ) Finally sci enti sts ca n assum e responsibility collectively for the appil­

spon sl.


of Social Is s ues

One such organization is the Soc iety for the Ps yc 0 ogl~aSoci~1~roblel11S(SSSP).

(SPSSl); another is the Society for the SClentIflc Study 0

their behalf and pro­




of res earch through organizations that commul1lc(D(\ eon,

d ·



of policy-related Is s ue s



d Crandall




lenel an



v ide a forum for the







' .a nore s. Research ethics is a


Ethic s is not someth1l1g one Simply acce es




Ie ' against whI c h the actions 0

Of01 10 (st~ are J·udged. They a re SCI en I


of ~orad~.:~c~~' ssand don ' ts; rather, they pose dil e mmas for researchers,. pressing

~:~!11at~ w ei a h the co sts and benefit s of actions

re search

and deCISIOn s . Eac~ s tag e :~ ~hoe ;~~

InveStlgator w 0 wou

. of data collection f ' and


les pon s~

search proc:ss prese nts its ow n problem s for the


th ·lno Thi s interaction of ethics and SCIence repeated throughout th e


fIg 1


, h



Id be a part of every social scienti st's con sCI ou s ness.

proce The ss S three ou. major areas



of eth·lcal con cern are the . ethic s

the ethics of the tre a tment of human subjects, a nd the ethIC S 0

. bIllty to SOCIety.




first set of ethics prescribes that SCIentIsts carry out their re­ he f d·ngs ho nestly and acc urately ; violations of these pnncI­

f knowled ge. The second area of ethics consi sts



sea rch and report t elr

pie s und ermIne sCience as a

of a

III I b ·d

0 yo


set of rule s that are desi g ned to protect the right s of rese arch partlclp;n~. d· _

. h·

h deal s with the rel a tion s hip between sOCietal values an t e IS

~~~~n~t~:~:n~cuseof scientific findin gs, generally advises sc ie ntists to promote the

. Ethical consid e rati o ns re g arding the effects of research o~. pa~~~I~:titutionaJ

general welfare,


nt s are



of an

re sea rch design. Presently , It IS common prac Ice


:;i:~P~~ards t~ pass jLldgmen~ on th e ethici~~~ f~~~:~;~~'~ts~~:~s\):~:~:~a~n!:~~

des ·n use differ in lan­ I

lation s and profe~S~o~ya a~tdI~~hi~~ :o~e social sc ientists take issue with c urrent

gu age and spec I I I practice, certain rules of conduct are

ter instItutIonal approval, reseaIchers are gu





d s Whde th e vanouS co

. faI rly standard.


Foremos t

the re sea rch er should

not expo se parti c ipants to sub slanti a i ri~t~!

1. phy s ical ~r psycholo g ical harm , unl es s t h e ben ef it s o f p a rticipatI o n


ri sk s and subjects knowingly choose

to partlclpale

2. Particip an ts s hould be inform e d


that their p ar ticipatIon I S voluntary an~ .shou d

mgne s s

' nd fully inform




b e told about any aspects of the re sea r c h thaI migh l mflu e nce their WI

to panicipate.


3. If decepti on is deem ed ne cessar y, th e re sea rch er 11l1l St ge:~Yp:%ible

s ub·ect s of the de cep tion as soo n af ter theIr parliclpa







4. Re;earc her s should formati o n pr ov ided

use all po ss ible means to protect the confldentlaltt) o f In by re sea rch participants.


The overall guiding prin c iple lS t weighed against the potential costs.






potential benefits of re search must be


Researchers also mu s t consider th e et hical implications of their research for the large r socie ty . It is now widely recognized th at values-personal and socie tal-are implicated throughout the re searc h process. W ith this in mind, re searche rs should be conscious of the ways in which their decisions conSlitute elhical judgments. They

shou ld be aware of the

aga in st

the intru sio n of per sonal valu es in the conduct of researc h, and carefully point

pote nt ial use s and ab use s of the knowled ge they seek, g uard

out the limitat ions of their researc h. Finally, w here appropriate, they should promote beneficial applica tions and fig ht aga in st haml fu l applic ation s of research findings.

research ethics elhics cost-b enefit analysis informed consent debriefing

Key Terms

anonymi/)' cOllfiden liality instilulional review board (IRB ) cultural reiatil 'ily

Review Questions and Problems

I . Why is it so important for sc ient is ts to be completely honest a nd accurate

in cond ucti ng

and re porting the ir research?

2. w ha t ways can research participants in soc ial re sea rch be ha rmed"

3. it ever considered ethical to use procedures that might ex pose resea rch



participants to physical o r mental discomfort, harm, or danger? E xp lain.

4. Wh at are the limitati o ns of a cost- benefit analy s is of proposed research"

5. What safeg uards do socia l scientists use to protect researc h parti c ipants

from han,,? 6 . Wh a t are the basic in g redie n ts of

g ram viola te this princip le in hi s research

info mled consent? How did Stanley Mil­

o bedience to authority?

the most serio us problems from the


7. Which re sea rch approaches present

standpo int of informed consent"

8. Why do re sea rcher s use deception ? What are the a rg u men ts agai nst it s use

in soc ial research?

9. Wh at is the most basic safeg uard aga in st the potentially h armful effects of

deception? Is it effective ? Explain . 10 . Wh e n is social re se arc h lik e ly to

privacy typically secu red in (a) s ur­

veys and (b) field research ?


evaluating th e ethics of re searc h ? 13 . What is meant by val ue-free soc io logy? Identify the major c ha llenges to

this position.

Becker 's position that social scient ists sh o uld decl are

"whose side they are on." Wh at purposes does thi s declaration serve ?

invade people' s privacy?

II. H ow is rese arc h participants' right to

12. What are institutional revie w boa rd s

(IRB s)? What part do th ey play


Explain H owa rd

Research Eihics



What obligati o ns do soc ia l scien tists have regarding the use of the knowl­

edge th ey generate ')


Discuss the ethic a l problems raised by the following research examples

a. (Hypo theti ca l)

A crim inol ogist meets a professional fence through an

ex-convict he kn ows . A s part of a study, the researcher convinces th e fence to talk a bout hi s work-why he sticks with this kind of w ork, wha t kind of people he deals with, how he meets them, and so forth . To

ga in the fence's personal detail s

to reveal hi s informant rather than go to jai l. Ha s the

poenaed, he agrees re searche r violated

cooperation , the re searcher promises no t to disclose any th at wo uld get the fence in tro u ble. Ho weve r, when s ub­

an ethical princip le in

agreei ng to talk ?

b. (Hyp oth eti ca l) A re searcher gai ns access to a c li nic serving AIDS pa­ ti e nt s by re spondi n g to a ca ll for volunteers. While working at the

record of patients ' names and later approaches them,

c linic, she makes a

identifie s herse lf as a soc ial scientist, fully explains the nature of her re­

searc h, a nd asks for their cooperation in he r in-d e pth s urvey of AIDS victims. M os t patients agree, a lthou gh some re act negatively to the re­ quest. Wh at aspects of the researche r's strategy are ethically problem­ atic?

c . Stephen West, Steven Gunn , and Paul Cherni cky ( 19 75) tested a propo­

the way

people perceive repre hensi ble ac ts. To do this they temp ted subjects to participate in a burglary and then tested w heth e r th ose agreeing to par­ ticipate differed from those refu sing and from s ubjects not a pproached

wi th re gard to their perceptions (a ttributi ons) a boll t this illegal act. On e of the experimenters, posing as a local priv a te detective, co ntacted stu ­ dents and prese nted an elaborate plan for burglarizing a local advertis­

si tion from a ttr ibuti on theory in soc ial psyc hology re ga rdin g

ing firm . In two of the

was to be committed for a government age ncy; in anot he r co ndition , subjects were promised $2000 for their participation. The subject's

conditions, subjects were told that the burglary

agreement or refusal to take part in th e burglary and hi s or her reaso ns fo r the decision we re the major dependent variables. The resea rchers did

not , of co urse , carry

study pose? Describe how you would debrief subjec ts in thi s stud y .

out th e cr ime. What e thi ca l pro blem s does thi s