Ethics and Psychology

Ethics are rules governing the conduct of an individual or a group in general or in a specific situation. Ethics are our standards of right and wrong.

Today the American Psychological Association (APA) has a code of ethics for conducting research involving human or animal subjects. When working with human subjects, psychological and medical researchers must adhere to the following guidelines:

Participants must be told what the study is about, what they will do, length of the study, known risks and benefits, whom to contact with questions, and that they have the right to withdraw at any time without penalty. Participants must be treated with respect protecting the dignity and autonomy of the individual. Participants must be told the costs and benefits of participation. The benefits and costs must be distributed equally among participants.

Still, controversy over ethical guidelines continues, with some thinking they are too strict and impede psychological research, and others thinking they are not strict enough to protect subjects from harm.

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