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Ethical issues raised by the milgram study

18/03/2021 Client: saad24vbs Deadline: 2 Day

LEARNING OBJECTIVES

· Summarize Milgram's obedience experiment.

· Discuss the three ethical principles outlined in the Belmont Report: beneficence, autonomy, and justice.

· Define deception and discuss the ethical issues surrounding its use in research.

· List the information contained in an informed consent form.

· Discuss potential problems in obtaining informed consent.

· Describe the purpose of debriefing research participants.

· Describe the function of an Institutional Review Board.

· Contrast the categories of risk involved in research activities: exempt, minimal risk, and greater than minimal risk.

· Summarize the ethical principles in the APA Ethics Code concerning research with human participants.

· Summarize the ethical issues concerning research with nonhuman animals.

· Discuss how potential risks and benefits of research are evaluated.

· Discuss the ethical issue surrounding misrepresentation of research findings.

· Define plagiarism and describe how to avoid plagiarism.

Page 44ETHICAL PRACTICE IS FUNDAMENTAL TO THE CONCEPTUALIZATION, PLANNING, EXECUTION, AND EVALUATION OF RESEARCH. Researchers who do not consider the ethical implications of their projects risk harming individuals, communities, and behavioral science. This chapter provides an historical overview of ethics in behavioral research, reviews core ethical principles for researchers, describes relevant institutional structures that protect research participants, and concludes with a discussion of what it means to be an ethical researcher.

MILGRAM'S OBEDIENCE EXPERIMENT

Stanley Milgram conducted a series of studies (1963, 1964, 1965) to study obedience to authority. He placed an ad in the local newspaper in New Haven, Connecticut, offering a small stipend to men to participate in a “scientific study of memory and learning” being conducted at Yale University. The volunteers reported to Milgram's laboratory at Yale, where they met a scientist dressed in a white lab coat and another volunteer in the study, a middle-aged man named “Mr. Wallace.” Mr. Wallace was actually a confederate (i.e., accomplice) of the experimenter, but the participants did not know this. The scientist explained that the study would examine the effects of punishment on learning. One person would be a “teacher” who would administer the punishment, and the other would be the “learner.” Mr. Wallace and the volunteer participant then drew slips of paper to determine who would be the teacher and who would be the learner. The drawing was rigged, however—Mr. Wallace was always the learner and the volunteer was always the teacher.

The scientist attached electrodes to Mr. Wallace and placed the teacher in front of an impressive-looking shock machine. The shock machine had a series of levers that, the individual was told, when pressed would deliver shocks to Mr. Wallace. The first lever was labeled 15 volts, the second 30 volts, the third 45 volts, and so on up to 450 volts. The levers were also labeled “Slight Shock,” “Moderate Shock,” and so on up to “Danger: Severe Shock,” followed by red X's above 400 volts.

Mr. Wallace was instructed to learn a series of word pairs. Then he was given a test to see if he could identify which words went together. Every time Mr. Wallace made a mistake, the teacher was to deliver a shock as punishment. The first mistake was supposed to be answered by a 15-volt shock, the second by a 30-volt shock, and so on. Each time a mistake was made, the learner received a greater shock. The learner, Mr. Wallace, never actually received any shocks, but the participants in the study did not know that. In the experiment, Mr. Wallace made mistake after mistake. When the teacher “shocked” him with about 120 volts, Mr. Wallace began screaming in pain and eventually yelled that he wanted out. What if the teacher wanted to quit? This happened—the volunteer participants became visibly upset by the pain that Mr. Wallace seemed to be experiencing. The experimenter told the teacher that he could Page 45quit but urged him to continue, using a series of verbal prods that stressed the importance of continuing the experiment.

The study purportedly was to be an experiment on memory and learning, but Milgram really was interested in learning whether participants would continue to obey the experimenter by administering ever higher levels of shock to the learner. What happened? Approximately 65% of the participants continued to deliver shocks all the way to 450 volts.

Milgram went on to conduct several variations on this basic procedure with 856 subjects. The study received a great deal of publicity, and the results challenged many of our beliefs about our ability to resist authority. The Milgram study is important, and the results have implications for understanding obedience in real-life situations, such as the Holocaust in Nazi Germany and the Jonestown mass suicide (see Miller, 1986).

But the Milgram study is also an important example of ethics in behavioral research. How should we make decisions about whether the Milgram study or any other study is ethical? The Milgram study was one of many that played an important role in the development of ethical standards that guide our ethical decision making.

What do you think? Should the obedience study have been allowed? Were the potential risks to Milgram's participants worth the knowledge gained by the outcomes? If you were a participant in the study, would you feel okay with having been deceived into thinking that you had harmed someone? What if it was a younger sibling? Or an elderly grandparent? Would that make a difference? Why or why not?

In this chapter, we work through some of these issues, and more. First, let us turn to an overview of the history of our current standards to help frame your understanding of ethics in research.

HISTORICAL CONTEXT OF CURRENT ETHICAL STANDARDS

Before we can delve into current ethical standards, it is useful to briefly talk about the origin of ethics codes related to behavioral research. Generally speaking, modern codes of ethics in behavioral and medical research have their origins in three important documents.

The Nuremberg Code and Declaration of Helsinki

Following World War II, the Nuremberg Trials were held to hear evidence against the Nazi doctors and scientists who had committed atrocities while forcing concentration camp inmates to be research subjects. The legal document that resulted from the trials contained what became known as the Nuremberg Code: a set of 10 rules of research conduct that would help prevent future research atrocities (see http://www.hhs.gov/ohrp/archive/nurcode.html).

Page 46The Nuremberg Code was a set of principles without any enforcement structure or endorsement by professional organizations. Moreover, it was rooted in the context of the Nazi experience and not generally seen as applicable to general research settings. Consequently, the World Medical Association developed a code that is known as the Declaration of Helsinki. This 1964 document is a broader application of the Nuremberg that was produced by the medical community and included a requirement that journal editors ensure that published research conform to the principles of the Declaration.

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