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Psychology 242
Research in Psychology
Dr. David J. McKirnan

Week 4.
Research Ethics

Miss Ever's Boys

Lecture notes

Be sure to take the CITI Research Ethics training this week. The link for instructions is here.

This week we talk about ethics in research.  Key issues:

Your discussion group reading (and lecture) also addresses whether the "business" of research creates incentives for fraud or shortcuts.

We will talk about the Tuskegee study, a 40 year study of syphilis in rural Alabama that led to over 400 poor, largely uneducated African-American men being left untreated. Tuskegee is the basis for some of our human subjects protections, and remains the most salient example of unethical research in the United States.   Wikipedia has a nice overview of the study here.

We will spend a some time discussing the Common Rule, eight principles or procedures that underlie ethnical research. Your CITI training and Ethics focus module 2 are your best resources for this content.

I will briefly touch on the Belmont Report and its conclusions; the CITI training will introduce that in more depth. I will also introduce the American Psychological Association rules for informed consent and IRB approval: you will all be including an informed consent document in your paper!

Lecture notes are here.

Discussion sections will meet in computer labs week 5.
Places to be announced.


Suggested background reading: "Ethics" (or the equivalent) in whatever text you are using.

Focus Modules:
Research Ethics 1, The Tuskegee Study
Research Ethics 2, The Common Rule

For lecture & Discussion Group:
Diederik StapelFirst is an NYT piece on a massive scientific fraud in Social Psychology. Diederik Stapel faked 20 years(!) of research, producing 55 journal articles and 10 dissertations with made-up data. How did he go undetected for so long?

He was obviously a gifted con artist, but the investigating committee also noted "...a general culture of careless, selective and uncritical handling of research and data [in Behavioral Science]." "What may be most troubling about the research culture the committees describe in their report are the plentiful opportunities and incentives for fraud."

Even though outright fraud is rare, "cutting corners" or "spinning" results in a favorable way may be widespread.

Clinical research in developing countries discusses controversy HIV research in Malawi. Women in the control group of a perinatal (mother to child) HIV transmission study were given no treatment, even though effective treatments are available. Can investigators in a developing country use procedures that would be considered unethical in the developed world? 

Discussion Group Assignment

Torture image

Research ethics

We will discuss the readings in discussion group this week, as well as ethics generally. To get ready, answer the following questions using not more than one typed page.

Readings 1: How skeptical should we be about findings in Psychology? Do you think the system "worked" in the case of Diederik Stapel, or are the temptations for ethically dubious shortcuts (or actual fraud) just too great?

Reading 2:

Paper Topics

At the end of discussion group you will write down three possible phenomena you find interesting or may want to study.

Again, a 'Phenomenon' is a process or behavior you are trying to explain; "...can I explain low moods during February by examining weather patterns...".
It consists of the relation of one hypothetical construct ("mood") to another ("weather patterns").

You also will need to articulate one or several theories that help you explain how one construct may influence another: Why or How do I think mood and weather may be related? As we move along you will develop a testable hypothesis that stems from the theory.Research flow, Phenomenon, Theory, Hypothesis.

You TA will read these over the week and give you feedback on which has the potential to 'work' as your paper topic. You will then take your ideas into the computer lab during Week 5 (next week) to find 2+ articles that address them.
This is a crucial part of your paper; if you go to Week 5 discussion without a clear topic you are setting yourself behind.