What strategies were used to insure the standards of ethical research?

Essay: (max. 2500 words, plus tables and figures) Students choose TWO extended case studies and will write an essay comparing and critically evaluating their ethical challenges and the strategies used to minimize or guard against harmful results. The essay must address the following issues:

  1. What ethical principles are at issue in each case? Provide and justify specific examples.
  2. What strategies were used to insure the standards of ethical research?
  3. Were those strategies successful? How and why?
  4. What alternate strategies might also have been used to achieve the same or better results?
  5. Which case study represents a better implementation of research ethics? How and why?

The two studies should have something in common: A similar topic, the method, the same ethical principles or conflict. They should also differ in the way that they addressed the ethical issues in question. Be sure to make both the similarities and differences clear to the reader. Your essay will consist of a careful, point-by-point contrast of the two cases. It should link the cases to commonly held standards of research ethics and discuss the extent to which those were followed. You should discuss the ethical, practical, and political consequences of these cases for the researchers, participants, and the social groups represented therein. And you should connect these cases to other examples of social research and implementation we have discussed.

Here is a list of the extended case studies for you to choose your two studies from. You should get the complete article for each study (go to library or use PsychInfo) so you will have detailed and complete information to address each of the five issues listed above.

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NOTE: Milgram’s notorious Obedience to Authority experiments are hereby officially banned from this assignment because they have been used so extensively throughout this and many other discussions on this topic. Part of this assignment is to show understanding of the principles in this course well enough to apply them to new research studies.

The Tea-Room Trade (Humphreys 1975)

Humphreys took a participant-observer role as “watch queen” in order to study anonymous male homosexual activities in St. Louis’s Forest Park public restrooms. He followed the “Johns” to their cars and recorded their license numbers. Humphreys then posed as a market researcher to obtain their addresses from police registers.

About a year later, he disguised himself and gained entry to their homes by pretending to do a health survey – including questions about sexual activity. Participants were never informed of their participation in a study or given the opportunity to withdraw.

Tuskegee Syphilis Studies (various authors, 1930s – 1970s)

In 1932, the US Public Health Service began a longitudinal study that came to be called the “Tuskegee Study of Untreated Syphilis in the Negro Male.” Black men in Macon County, Alabama were recruited by circulating word in the community that they could receive free tests for “bad blood” at the teaching hospital of the Tuskegee Institute.

616 men (412 diagnosed with syphilis and 204 disease-free controls) eventually participated. At the start of the study, syphilis was poorly understood and untreatable, but penicillin became widely available as an effective cure for the disease in 1943. Nevertheless, participants were not informed of their disease, not treated, and actively encouraged n o t to go elsewhere once viable treatments were known.

The medical community was aware of the study through numerous scholarly publications, but no one formally objected to the study until 1965. The PHS convened an ethical review panel in 1969 that found no ethical violations and recommended the study continue. It was not halted until 1972, when an Associated Press expose appeared, causing widespread public furor.

The Bell Curve (Herrnstein and Murray, 1994)

The authors argue that cognitive ability is largely inherited, and that there are meaningful differences in intelligence between culturally recognized racial and ethnic groups. They assert that cognitive ability is now the strongest force stratifying educational and occupational access and performance, as well as mating decisions.

In blunt terms, smarter people tend to get more and better education, get better jobs and more promotions, and marry other smarter people – thus transferring greater cognitive stratification into the next generation – and those smarter people tend to overwhelmingly be white or Asian. In their minds, this explains continuing racial differences in life chances, particularly between white and black Americans.

As a consequence they argue that social, educational, and other ameliorative programs cannot overcome these advantages and are effectively a waste of public funding and effort. Their findings are almost universally discredited by other researchers due to methodological flaws, and yet their book significantly contributed to the public perception that “race” is a real biological category and that those “races” are irrevocably unequal.

Regqrdless of one’s political views, is there anything inherently unethical about Herrnstein and Murray’s research?

‘Zimbardo Prison Experiment’ (Zimbardo 1972, 1973; Zimbardo, et. al. 1973, 1974)

Male students, testing psychologically “normal,” were divided randomly into “prisoners” and “guards.” Prisoners were given plain uniforms, numbers, and had all personal effects removed. Guards were given military-style uniforms, nightsticks, and mirrored sunglasses. Prisoners were incarcerated in cells and had to maintain their roles around the clock. Guards were given eight-hour shifts and told simply to maintain a “reasonable degree of order” without inflicting physical harm.

The prisoners soon began antagonizing the guards and the guards rapidly resorted to mental and physical abuse to maintain order among the prisoners. Though the experiment was scheduled for two weeks, conditions became so dangerous that it was called on the sixth day.

Middletown studies (Lynd and Lynd 1929, 1937; Vidich and Bensman 1968; Vidich 1999; and others)

Though the Lynds promised confidentiality and followed the standard convention of changing names and locations, it soon became common knowledge that “Middletown” was Muncie, IN. Once that was known, it was also easy to recognize individuals in what was then a community of only twenty thousand. Of course, many of those portrayals were unflattering and related private information, causing some participants to feel as if they had been betrayed.

Project Camelot (Horowitz 1965)

Study sponsored by the CIA, ostensibly to test W. I. Thomas’ idea of the “self-fulfilling prophecy”. A research team from several prestigious American universities was assembled that gained access to several remote South American villages, but failed to disclose their funding source or true purpose.

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