Create two questions for your instructor. The two questions must relate to the Chapters 1 through 3 attachment readings and learning objectives/competencies. Ask 2 questions to your instructor that are directly related to learning objectives/competencies that the active student (you) want more assistance with to strengthen comprehension of research methods in this psychology program class.
SCIENTIFIC UNDERSTANDING OF BEHAVIOR CHP. 1
· Describe why an understanding of research methods is important.
· Describe the scientific approach to learning about behavior and contrast it with pseudoscientific research.
· Define and give examples of the four goals of scientific research: description, prediction, determination of cause, and explanation of behavior.
· Discuss the three elements for inferring causation: temporal order, covariation of cause and effect, and elimination of alternative explanations.
· Define, describe, compare, and contrast basic and applied research.
Page 2DO SOCIAL MEDIA SITES LIKE FACEBOOK AND INSTAGRAM IMPACT OUR RELATIONSHIPS? What causes alcoholism? How do our early childhood experiences affect our later lives? How do we remember things, what causes us to forget, and how can memory be improved? Why do we procrastinate? Why do some people experience anxiety so extreme that it disrupts their lives while others—facing the same situation—seem to be unaffected? How can we help people who suffer from depression? Why do we like certain people and dislike others?
Curiosity about questions like these is probably the most important reason that many students decide to take courses in the behavioral sciences. Science is the best way to explore and answer these sorts of questions. In this book, we will examine the methods of scientific research in the behavioral sciences. In this introductory chapter, we will focus on ways in which knowledge of research methods can be useful in understanding the world around us. Further, we will review the characteristics of a scientific approach to the study of behavior and the general types of research questions that concern behavioral scientists.
IMPORTANCE OF RESEARCH METHODS
We are continuously bombarded with research results: “Happiness Wards Off Heart Disease,” “Recession Causes Increase in Teen Dating Violence,” “Breast-Fed Children Found Smarter,” “Facebook Users Get Worse Grades in College.” Articles and books make claims about the beneficial or harmful effects of particular diets or vitamins on one’s sex life, personality, or health. Survey results are frequently reported that draw conclusions about our beliefs concerning a variety of topics. The key question is, how do you evaluate such reports? Do you simply accept the findings because they are supposed to be scientific? A background in research methods will help you read these reports critically, evaluate the methods employed, and decide whether the conclusions are reasonable.
Many occupations require the use of research findings. For example, mental health professionals must make decisions about treatment methods, assignment of clients to different types of facilities, medications, and testing procedures. Such decisions are made on the basis of research; to make good decisions, mental health professionals must be able to read the research literature in the field and apply it to their professional lives. Similarly, people who work in business environments frequently rely on research to make decisions about marketing strategies, ways of improving employee productivity and morale, and methods of selecting and training new employees. Educators must keep up with research on topics such as the effectiveness of different teaching strategies or programs to deal with special student problems. Knowledge of research methods and the ability to evaluate research reports are useful in many fields.
Page 3It is also important to recognize that scientific research has become increasingly prominent in public policy decisions. Legislators and political leaders at all levels of government frequently take political positions and propose legislation based on research findings. Research may also influence judicial decisions: A classic example of this is the Social Science Brief that was prepared by psychologists and accepted as evidence in the landmark 1954 case of Brown v. Board of Education in which the U.S. Supreme Court banned school segregation in the United States. One of the studies cited in the brief was conducted by Clark and Clark (1947), who found that when allowed to choose between light-skinned and dark-skinned dolls, both Black and White children preferred to play with the light-skinned dolls (see Stephan, 1983, for a further discussion of the implications of this study).
Behavioral research on human development has influenced U.S. Supreme Court decisions related to juvenile crime. In 2005, for instance, the Supreme Court decided that juveniles could not face the death penalty (Roper v. Simmons), and the decision was informed by neurological and behavioral research showing that the brain, social, and character differences between adults and juveniles make juveniles less culpable than adults for the same crimes. Similarly, in the 2010 Supreme Court decision Graham v. Florida, the Supreme Court decided that juvenile offenders could not be sentenced to life in prison without parole for non-homicide offenses. This decision was influenced by research in developmental psychology and neuroscience. The court majority pointed to this research in their conclusion that assessment of blame and standards for sentencing should be different for juveniles and adults because of juveniles’ lack of maturity and poorly formed character development (Clay, 2010).
Research is also important when developing and assessing the effectiveness of programs designed to achieve certain goals—for example, to increase retention of students in school, influence people to engage in behaviors that reduce their risk of contracting HIV, or teach employees how to reduce the effects of stress. We need to be able to determine whether these programs are successfully meeting their goals.
Finally, research methods are important because they can provide us with the best answers to questions like those we posed at the outset of the chapter. Research methods can be the way to satisfy our native curiosity about ourselves, our world, and those around us.
WAYS OF KNOWING
We opened this chapter with several questions about human behavior and suggested that scientific research is a valuable means of answering them. How does the scientific approach differ from other ways of learning about behavior? People have always observed the world around them and sought explanations for what they see and experience. However, instead of using a scientific approach, many people rely on intuition and authority as primary ways of knowing.
Most of us either know or have heard about a married couple who, after years of trying to conceive, adopt a child. Then, within a very short period of time, they find that the woman is pregnant. This observation leads to a common belief that adoption increases the likelihood of pregnancy among couples who are having difficulties conceiving a child. Such a conclusion seems intuitively reasonable, and people usually have an explanation for this effect—for example, the adoption reduces a major source of marital stress, and the stress reduction in turn increases the chances of conception (see Gilovich, 1991).
This example illustrates the use of intuition and anecdotal evidence to draw general conclusions about the world around us. When you rely on intuition, you accept unquestioningly what your own personal judgment or a single story about one person’s experience tells you. The intuitive approach takes many forms. Often, it involves finding an explanation for our own behaviors or the behaviors of others. For example, you might develop an explanation for why you keep having conflicts with your roommate, such as “he hates me” or “having to share a bathroom creates conflict.” Other times, intuition is used to explain intriguing events that you observe, as in the case of concluding that adoption increases the chances of conception among couples having difficulty conceiving a child.
A problem with intuition is that numerous cognitive and motivational biases affect our perceptions, and so we may draw erroneous conclusions about cause and effect (cf. Fiske & Taylor, 1984; Gilovich, 1991; Nisbett & Ross, 1980; Nisbett & Wilson, 1977). Gilovich points out that there is in fact no relationship between adoption and subsequent pregnancy, according to scientific research investigations. So why do we hold this belief? Most likely it is because of a cognitive bias called illusory correlation that occurs when we focus on two events that stand out and occur together. When an adoption is closely followed by a pregnancy, our attention is drawn to the situation, and we are biased to conclude that there must be a causal connection. Such illusory correlations are also likely to occur when we are highly motivated to believe in the causal relationship. Although this is a natural thing for us to do, it is not scientific. A scientific approach requires much more evidence before conclusions can be drawn.
The philosopher Aristotle said: “Persuasion is achieved by the speaker’s personal character when the speech is so spoken as to make us think him credible. We believe good men more fully and readily than others.” Aristotle would argue that we are more likely to be persuaded by a speaker who seems prestigious, trustworthy, and respectable than by one who appears to lack such qualities.
Many of us might accept Aristotle’s arguments simply because he is considered a prestigious authority—a convincing and influential source—and his Page 5writings remain important. Similarly, many people are all too ready to accept anything they learn from the Internet, news media, books, government officials, celebrities, religious figures, or even a professor! They believe that the statements of such authorities must be true. The problem, of course, is that the statements may not be true. The scientific approach rejects the notion that one can accept on faith the statements of any authority; again, more evidence is needed before we can draw scientific conclusions.
The scientific approach to acquiring knowledge recognizes that both intuition and authority can be sources of ideas about behavior. However, scientists do not unquestioningly accept anyone’s intuitions—including their own. Scientists recognize that their ideas are just as likely to be wrong as anyone else’s. Also, scientists do not accept on faith the pronouncements of anyone, regardless of that person’s prestige or authority. Thus, scientists are very skeptical about what they see and hear. Scientific skepticism means that ideas must be evaluated on the basis of careful logic and results from scientific investigations.
If scientists reject intuition and blind acceptance of authority as ways of knowing about the world, how do they go about gaining knowledge? The fundamental characteristic of the scientific method is empiricism—the idea that knowledge is based on observations. Data are collected that form the basis of conclusions about the nature of the world. The scientific method embodies a number of rules for collecting and evaluating data; these rules will be explored throughout the book.
The Scientific Approach
The power of the scientific approach can be seen all around us. Whether you look at biology, chemistry, medicine, physics, anthropology, or psychology, you will see amazing advances over the past 5, 25, 50, or 100 years. We have a greater understanding of the world around us, and the applications of that understanding have kept pace. Goodstein (2000) describes an “evolved theory of science” that defines the characteristics of scientific inquiry. These characteristics are summarized below.
· Data play a central role For scientists, knowledge is primarily based on observations. Scientists enthusiastically search for observations that will verify or reject their ideas about the world. They develop theories, argue that existing data support their theories, and conduct research that can increase our confidence that the theories are correct. Observations can be criticized, alternatives can be suggested, and data collection methods can be called into question. But in each of these cases, the role of data is central and fundamental. Scientists have a “show me, don’t tell me” attitude.
· Page 6Scientists are not alone Scientists make observations that are accurately reported to other scientists and the public. You can be sure that many other scientists will follow up on the findings by conducting research that replicates and extends these observations.
· Science is adversarial Science is a way of thinking in which ideas do battle with other ideas in order to move ever closer to truth. Research can be conducted to test any idea; supporters of the idea and those who disagree with the idea can report their research findings, and these can be evaluated by others. Some ideas, even some very good ideas, may prove to be wrong if research fails to provide support for them. Good scientific ideas are testable. They can be supported or they can be falsified by data—the latter concept called falsifiability (Popper, 2002). If an idea is falsified when it is tested, science is thereby advanced because this result will spur the development of new and better ideas.
· Scientific evidence is peer reviewed Before a study is published in a top-quality scientific journal, other scientists who have the expertise to carefully evaluate the research review it. This process is called peer review. The role of these reviewers is to recommend whether the research should be published. This review process ensures that research with major flaws will not become part of the scientific literature. In essence, science exists in a free market of ideas in which the best ideas are supported by research and scientists can build upon the research of others to make further advances.
Integrating Intuition, Skepticism, and Authority
The advantage of the scientific approach over other ways of knowing about the world is that it provides an objective set of rules for gathering, evaluating, and reporting information. It is an open system that allows ideas to be refuted or supported by others. This does not mean that intuition and authority are unimportant, however. As noted previously, scientists often rely on intuition and assertions of authorities for ideas for research. Moreover, there is nothing wrong with accepting the assertions of authority as long as we do not accept them as scientific evidence. Often, scientific evidence is not obtainable, as, for example, when a religious figure or text asks us to accept certain beliefs on faith. Some beliefs cannot be tested and thus are beyond the realm of science. In science, however, ideas must be evaluated on the basis of available evidence that can be used to support or refute the ideas.
There is also nothing wrong with having opinions or beliefs as long as they are presented simply as opinions or beliefs. However, we should always ask whether the opinion can be tested scientifically or whether scientific evidence exists that relates to the opinion. For example, opinions on whether exposure to violent movies, TV, and video games increases aggression are only opinions until scientific evidence on the issue is gathered.
Page 7As you learn more about scientific methods, you will become increasingly skeptical of the research results reported in the media and the assertions of scientists as well. You should be aware that scientists often become authorities when they express their ideas. When someone claims to be a scientist, should we be more willing to accept what he or she has to say? First, ask about the credentials of the individual. It is usually wise to pay more attention to someone with an established reputation in the field and attend to the reputation of the institution represented by the person. It is also worthwhile to examine the researcher’s funding source; you might be a bit suspicious when research funded by a drug company supports the effectiveness of a drug manufactured by that company, for example. Similarly, when an organization with a particular social-political agenda funds the research that supports that agenda, you should be skeptical of the findings and closely examine the methods of the study.
You should also be skeptical of pseudoscientific research. Pseudoscience is “fake” science in which seemingly scientific terms and demonstrations are used to substantiate claims that have no basis in scientific research. The claim may be that a product or procedure will enhance your memory, relieve depression, or treat autism or post traumatic stress disorder. The fact that these are all worthy outcomes makes us very susceptible to believing pseudoscientific claims and forgetting to ask whether there is a valid scientific basis for the claims.
A good example comes from a procedure called facilitated communication that has been used by therapists working with children with autism. These children lack verbal skills for communication; to help them communicate, a facilitator holds the child’s hand while the child presses keys to type messages on a keyboard. This technique produces impressive results, as the children are now able to express themselves. Of course, well-designed studies revealed that the facilitators, not the children, controlled the typing. The problem with all pseudoscience is that hopes are raised and promises will not be realized. Often the techniques can be dangerous as well. In the case of facilitated communication, a number of facilitators typed messages accusing a parent of physically or sexually abusing the child. Some parents were actually convicted of child abuse. In these legal cases, the scientific research on facilitated communication was used to help the defendant parent. Cases such as this have led to a movement to promote the exclusive use of evidence-based therapies—therapeutic interventions grounded in scientific research findings that demonstrate their effectiveness (cf. Lilienfeld, Lynn, & Lohr, 2004).
So how can you tell if a claim is pseudoscientific? It is not easy; in fact, a philosopher of science noted that “the boundaries separating science, non-science, and pseudoscience are much fuzzier and more permeable than … most scientists … would have us believe” (Pigliucci, 2010). Here are a few things to look for when evaluating claims:
· Untestable claims that cannot be refuted.
· Claims rely on imprecise, biased, or vague language.
· Page 8Evidence is based on anecdotes and testimonials rather than scientific data.
· Evidence is from experts with only vague qualifications who provide support for the claim without sound scientific evidence.
· Only confirmatory evidence is presented; conflicting evidence is ignored.
· References to scientific evidence lack information on the methods that would allow independent verification.
Finally, we are all increasingly susceptible to false reports of scientific findings circulated via the Internet. Many of these claim to be associated with a reputable scientist or scientific organization, and then they take on a life of their own. A recent widely covered report, supposedly from the World Health Organization, claimed that the gene for blond hair was being selected out of the human gene pool. Blond hair would be a disappearing trait! General rules to follow are (1) be highly skeptical of scientific assertions that are supported by only vague or improbable evidence and (2) take the time to do an Internet search for supportive evidence. You can check many of the claims that are on the Internet on www.snopes.com and www.truthorfiction.com.
GOALS OF BEHAVIORAL SCIENCE
Scientific research on behavior has four general goals: (1) to describe behavior, (2) to predict behavior, (3) to determine the causes of behavior, and (4) to understand or explain behavior.
Description of Behavior
The scientist begins with careful observation, because the first goal of science is to describe behavior—which can be something directly observable (such as running speed, eye gaze, or loudness of laughter) or something less observable (such as self-reports of perceptions of attractiveness). Researchers at the Kaiser Family Foundation (Rideout, Foehr, & Roberts, 2010) described media use (e.g., television, cell phones, movies) of over 2,000 8- to 18-year-olds using a written questionnaire. One section of the questionnaire asked about computer use. Figure 1.1 shows the percentage of time spent on various recreational computer activities in a typical day. As you can see, social networking and game playing are the most common activities. The study is being done every few years so you can check for changes when the next phase of the study is completed.
Researchers are often interested in describing the ways in which events are systematically related to one another. If parents enforce rules on amount of recreational computer use, do their children perform better in school? Do jurors judge attractive defendants more leniently than unattractive defendants? Are people more likely to be persuaded by a speaker who has high credibility? In what ways do cognitive abilities change as people grow older? Do students who study with a television set on score lower on exams than students who study in a quiet environment? Do taller people make more money than shorter people? Do men find women wearing red clothing more attractive than women wearing a dark blue color?
Time spent on recreational computer activities
Reprinted by permission of the Kaiser Family Foundation.
Prediction of Behavior
Another goal of science is to predict behavior. Once it has been observed with some regularity that two events are systematically related to one another (e.g., greater attractiveness is associated with more lenient sentencing), it becomes possible to make predictions. One implication of this process is that it allows us to anticipate events. If you read about an upcoming trial of a very attractive defendant, you can predict that the person will likely receive a lenient sentence. Further, the ability to predict often helps us make better decisions. For example, if you study the behavioral science research literature on attraction and relationships, you will learn about factors that predict long-term relationship satisfaction. You may be able to then use that information when predicting the likely success of your own relationships. You can even take a test that was designed to measure these predictors of relationship success. Tests such as RELATE, FOCCUS, and PREPARE can be completed online by yourself, with a partner, or with the help of a professional counselor (Larson, Newell, Topham, & Nichols, 2002).
Determining the Causes of Behavior
A third goal of science is to determine the causes of behavior. Although we might accurately predict the occurrence of a behavior, we might not correctly Page 10identify its cause. Research shows that a child’s aggressive behavior may be predicted by knowing how much violence the child views on television. Unfortunately, unless we know that exposure to television violence is a cause of behavior, we cannot assert that aggressive behavior can be reduced by limiting scenes of violence on television. A child who is highly aggressive may prefer to watch violence when choosing television programs. Or consider this example: Research by Elliot and Niesta (2008) indicates that men find women wearing red are more attractive than women wearing a color such as blue. Does the red clothing cause the perception of greater attractiveness? Or is it possible that attractive women choose to wear brighter colors (including red) and less attractive women choose to wear darker colors? Should a woman wear red to help her be perceived as more attractive? We can only recommend this strategy if we know that the color red causes perception of greater attractiveness. We are now confronting questions of cause and effect: To know how to change behavior, we need to know the causes of behavior.
Cook and Campbell (1979) describe three types of evidence (drawn from the work of philosopher John Stuart Mill) used to identify the cause of a behavior. It is not enough to know that two events occur together, as in the case of knowing that watching television violence is a predictor of actual aggression. To conclude causation, three things must occur (see Figure 2.1):
1. There is a temporal order of events in which the cause precedes the effect. This is called temporal precedence. Thus, we need to know that television viewing occurred first and aggression followed.
2. When the cause is present, the effect occurs; when the cause is not present, the effect does not occur. This is called covariation of cause and effect. We need to know that children who watch television violence behave aggressively and that children who do not watch television violence do not behave aggressively.
3. Nothing other than a causal variable could be responsible for the observed effect. This is called elimination of alternative explanations. There should be no other plausible alternative explanation for the relationship. This third point about alternative explanations is very important: Suppose that the children who watch a lot of television violence are left alone more than are children who do not view television violence. In this case, the increased aggression could have an alternative explanation: lack of parental supervision. Causation will be discussed again in Chapter 4.
Explanation of Behavior
A final goal of science is to explain the events that have been described. The scientist seeks to understand why the behavior occurs. Consider the relationship between television violence and aggression: Even if we know that TV violence is a cause of aggressiveness, we need to explain this relationship. Is it due to imitation or “modeling” of the violence seen on TV? Is it the result of psychological desensitization to violence and its effects? Or does watching TV violence lead to a belief that aggression is a normal response to frustration and conflict? Further research is necessary to shed light on possible explanations of what has been observed. Usually, additional research like this is carried out by testing theories that are developed to explain particular behaviors.
Determining cause and effect
Page 12Description, prediction, determination of cause, and explanation are all closely intertwined. Determining cause and explaining behavior are particularly closely related because it is difficult ever to know the true cause or all the causes of any behavior. An explanation that appears satisfactory may turn out to be inadequate when other causes are identified in subsequent research. For example, when early research showed that speaker credibility is related to attitude change, the researchers explained the finding by stating that people are more willing to believe what is said by a person with high credibility than by one with low credibility. However, this explanation has given way to a more complex theory of attitude change that takes into account many other factors that are related to persuasion (Petty, Wheeler, & Tomala, 2003). In short, there is a certain amount of ambiguity in the enterprise of scientific inquiry. New research findings almost always pose new questions that must be addressed by further research; explanations of behavior often must be discarded or revised as new evidence is gathered. Such ambiguity is part of the excitement and fun of science.
BASIC AND APPLIED RESEARCH
While behavioral researchers are typically trying to make progress on the aforementioned goals of science (i.e., describe, predict, determine cause, and explain), behavioral research generally falls into two categories: basic and applied. Next, we will explore the differences and similarities between basic research and applied research.
Basic research tries to answer fundamental questions about the nature of behavior. Studies are often designed to address theoretical issues concerning phenomena such as cognition, emotion, motivation, learning, neuropsychology, personality development, and social behavior. Here are descriptions of a few journal articles that pertain to some basic research questions:
Kool, W., McGuire, J., Rosen, Z., & Botvinick, M. (2010). Decision making and the avoidance of cognitive demand. Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, 139, 665–682. doi:10.1037/a0020198
Past research documented that people choose the least physically demanding option when choosing among different behaviors. This study investigated choices that differed in the amount of required cognitive effort. As expected, the participants chose to pursue options with the fewest cognitive demands.
Rydell, R. J., Rydell, M. T., & Boucher, K. L. (2010). The effect of negative performance stereotypes on learning. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 99, 883–896. doi:10.1037/a0021139Page 13
Female participants studied a tutorial on a particular approach to solving math problems. After completing the first half of the tutorial, they were given math problems to solve. At this point, a stereotype was invoked. Some participants were told that the purpose of the experiment was to examine reasons why females perform poorly in math. The other participants were not given this information. The second half of the tutorial was then presented and a second math performance measure was administered. The participants receiving the negative stereotype information did perform poorly on the second math test; the other participants performed the same on both math tests.
Jacovina, M. E., & Gerreg, R. J. (2010). How readers experience characters’ decisions. Memory & Cognition, 38, 753–761. doi:10.3758/MC.38.6.753
This study focused on the way that readers process information about decisions that a story’s characters make along with the consequences of the decisions. Participants read a story in which there was a match of the reader’s decision preference and outcome (e.g., the preferred decision was made and there were positive consequences) or there was a mismatch (e.g., the preferred choice was made but there were negative outcomes). Readers took longer to read the information about decision outcomes when there was a mismatch of decision preference and outcome.
The research articles listed above were concerned with basic processes of behavior and cognition rather than any immediate practical implications. In contrast, applied research is conducted to address issues in which there are practical problems and potential solutions. To illustrate, here are a few summaries of journal articles about applied research:
Ramesh, A., & Gelfand, M. (2010). Will they stay or will they go? The role of job embeddedness in predicting turnover in individualistic and collectivistic cultures. Journal of Applied Psychology, 95, 807–823. doi:10.1037/a0019464
In the individualistic United States, employee turnover was predicted by the fit between the person’s skills and the requirements of the job. In the more collectivist society of India, turnover was more strongly related to the fit between the person’s values and the values of the organization.
Young, C., Fang, D., & Zisook, S. (2010). Depression in Asian-American and Caucasian undergraduate students. Journal of Affective Disorders, 125, 379–382. doi:10.1016/j.jad.2010.02.124
Page 14Asian-American college students reported higher levels of depression than Caucasian students. The results have implications for campus mental health programs.
Braver, S. L., Ellman, I. M., & Fabricus, W. V. (2003). Relocation of children after divorce and children’s best interests: New evidence and legal considerations. Journal of Family Psychology, 17, 206–219. doi:10.1037/0893-322.214.171.124
College students whose parents had divorced were categorized into groups based on whether the parent had moved more than an hour’s drive away. The students whose parents had not moved had more positive scores on a number of adjustment measures.
Latimer, A. E., Krishnan-Sarin, S., Cavallo, D. A., Duhig, A., Salovey, P., & O’Malley, S. A. (2012). Targeted smoking cessation messages for adolescents. Journal of Adolescent Health, 50, 47–53. doi: 10.1016/j.jadohealth.2011.04.013
Based on the results of research that identified adolescent smokers’ perceptions of the content of smoking cessation messages, the researchers produced two videos that were shown to smokers. One focused on long-term benefits of quitting; the other emphasized long-term negative consequences of smoking. The video showing the costs of smoking resulted in more positive attitudes toward quitting than the one showing the benefits of quitting.
Hyman, I., Boss, S., Wise, B., McKenzie, K., & Caggiano, J. (2010). Did you see the unicycling clown? Inattentional blindness while walking and talking on a cell phone. Applied Cognitive Psychology, 24, 597–607. doi:10.1002/acp.1638
Does talking on a cell phone while walking produce an inattentional blindness—a failure to notice events in the environment? In one study, pedestrians walking across a campus square while using a cell phone walked more slowly and changed directions more frequently than others walking in the same location. In a second study, a clown rode a unicycle on the square. Pedestrians were asked if they noticed a clown on a unicycle after they had crossed the square. The cell phone users were much less likely to notice than pedestrians walking alone, with a friend, or while listening to music.
A major area of applied research is called program evaluation, which assesses the social reforms and innovations that occur in government, education, the criminal justice system, industry, health care, and mental health institutions. In an influential paper on “reforms as experiments,” Campbell (1969) noted that social programs are really experiments designed to achieve certain outcomes. He argued persuasively that social scientists should evaluate each Page 15program to determine whether it is having its intended effect. If it is not, alternative programs should be tried. This is an important point that people in all organizations too often fail to remember when new ideas are implemented; the scientific approach dictates that new programs should be evaluated. Here are three sample journal articles about program evaluation:
Reid, R., Mullen, K., D’Angelo, M., Aitken, D., Papadakis, S., Haley, P., … Pipe, A. L. (2010). Smoking cessation for hospitalized smokers: An evaluation of the “Ottawa Model.” Nicotine & Tobacco Research, 12, 11–18. doi:10.1093/ntr/ntp165
A smoking cessation program for patients was implemented in nine Canadian hospitals. Smoking rates were measured for a year following the treatment. The program was successful in reducing smoking.
Herrera, C., Grossman, J. B., Kauh, T. J., & McMaken, J. (2011). Mentoring in schools: An impact study of Big Brothers Big Sisters school-based mentoring. Child Development, 82, 346–361. doi:10.1111/j.1467-8624.2010.01559.x
An experiment was conducted to evaluate the impact of participation in the Big Brothers Big Sisters program. The 9- to 16-year-old students participating in the program showed greater improvement in academic achievement than those in the control group. There were no differences in measures of problem behaviors.
Kumpfer, K., Whiteside, H., Greene, J., & Allen, K. (2010). Effectiveness outcomes of four age versions of the Strengthening Families Program in statewide field sites. Group Dynamics: Theory, Research, and Practice, 14(3), 211–229. doi:10.1037/a0020602
A large-scale Strengthening Families Program was implemented over a 5-year period with over 1,600 high-risk families in Utah. For most measures of improvement in family functioning, the program was effective across all child age groups.
Much applied research is conducted in settings such as large business firms, marketing research companies, government agencies, and public polling organizations and is not published but rather is used within the company or by clients of the company. Whether or not such results are published, however, they are used to help people make better decisions concerning problems that require immediate action.
Comparing Basic and Applied Research
Both basic and applied research are important, and neither can be considered superior to the other. In fact, progress in science is dependent on a synergy between basic and applied research. Much applied research is guided by the Page 16theories and findings of basic research investigations. For example, one of the most effective treatment strategies for specific phobia—an anxiety disorder characterized by extreme fear reactions to specific objects or situations—is called exposure therapy (Chambless et al., 1996). In exposure therapy, people who suffer from a phobia are exposed to the object of their fears in a safe setting while a therapist trains them in relaxation techniques in order to counter-program their fear reaction. This behavioral treatment emerged from the work of Pavlov and Watson, who studied the processes by which animals acquire, maintain, and critically lose reflexive reactions to stimuli (Wolpe, 1982). Today, this work has been extended even further, as the use of virtual reality technologies to treat anxiety disorders has been studied and found to be as effective as traditional exposure treatment (Opris, Pintea, García-Palacios, Botella, Szamosközi, & David, 2012).
In recent years, many in our society, including legislators who control the budgets of research-granting agencies of the government, have demanded that research be directly relevant to specific social issues. The problem with this attitude toward research is that we can never predict the ultimate applications of basic research. Psychologist B. F. Skinner, for example, conducted basic research in the 1930s on operant conditioning, which carefully described the effects of reinforcement on such behaviors as bar pressing by rats. Years later, this research led to many practical applications in therapy, education, and industry. Research with no apparent practical value ultimately can be very useful. The fact that no one can predict the eventual impact of basic research leads to the conclusion that support of basic research is necessary both to advance science and to benefit society.
At this point, you may be wondering if there is a definitive way to know whether a study should be considered basic or applied. The distinction between basic and applied research is a convenient typology but is probably more accurately viewed as a continuum. Notice in the listing of applied research studies that some are more applied than others. The study on adolescent smoking is very much applied—the data will be valuable for people who are planning smoking cessation programs for adolescents. The study on depression among college students would be valuable on campuses that have mental health awareness and intervention programs for students. The study on child custody could be used as part of an argument in actual court cases. It could even be used by counselors working with couples in the process of divorce. The study on cell phone use is applied because of the widespread use of cell phones and the documentation of the problems they may cause. However, the study would not necessarily lead to a solution to the problem. All of these studies are grounded in applied issues and solutions to problems, but they differ in how quickly and easily the results of the study can actually be used. Table 1.1 gives you a chance to test your understanding of this distinction.
Behavioral research is important in many fields and has significant applications to public policy. This chapter has introduced you to the major goals and general types of research. All researchers use scientific methods, whether they are interested in basic, applied, or program evaluation questions. The themes and concepts in this chapter will be expanded in the remainder of the book. They will be the basis on which you evaluate the research of others and plan your own research projects as well.
TABLE 1.1 Test yourself
This chapter emphasized that scientists are skeptical about what is true in the world; they insist that propositions be tested empirically. In the next two chapters, we will focus on two other characteristics of scientists. First, scientists have an intense curiosity about the world and find inspiration for ideas in many places. Second, scientists have strong ethical principles; they are committed to treating those who participate in research investigations with respect and dignity.
ILLUSTRATIVE ARTICLE: INTRODUCTION
Most chapters in this book include a chapter closing feature called Illustrative Article, which is designed to relate some of the key points in the chapter to information in a published journal article. In each case you will be asked to obtain a copy of the article using some of the skills that will be presented in our discussion “Where to Start,” read the article, and answer some questions that are closely aligned with the material in the chapter.
For this chapter, instead of reading articles from scientific journals, we invite you to read three columns in which New York Times columnist David Brooks describes the value and excitement he has discovered by reading social science research literature. His enthusiasm for research is Page 18summed up by his comment that “a day without social science is like a day without sunshine.” The articles can be found via the New York Times website (nytimes.com) or using a newspaper database in your library that includes the New York Times:
Brooks, D. (2010, December 7). Social science palooza. New York Times, p. A33. Retrieved from www.nytimes.com/2010/12/07/opinion/07brooks.html
Brooks, D. (2011, March 18). Social science palooza II. New York Times, p. A29. Retrieved from www.nytimes.com/2011/03/18/opinion/18brooks.html
Brooks, D. (2012, December 10). Social science palooza III. Retreived from com/2012/12/11/opinion/brooks-social-science-palooza-iii.html”>www.nytimes.com/2012/12/11/opinion/brooks-social-science-palooza-iii.html
After reading the newspaper columns, consider the following:
1. Brooks describes several studies in his articles. Which one did you find most interesting? (i.e., you would like to conduct research on the topic, you would be motivated to read the original journal articles) Why do you find this interesting?
2. Of all the articles described, which one would you describe as being the most applied and which one most reflects basic research? Why?
3. For each of the studies that Brooks describes, which goal of science do you think is primarily targeted (description, prediction, causation, explanation)?
Alternative explanations (p. 10)
Applied research (p. 13)
Authority (p. 3)
Basic research (p. 12)
Covariation of cause and effect (p. 10)
Empiricism (p. 5)
Falsifiability (p. 6)
Goals of behavioral science (p. 8)
Intuition (p. 3)
Peer review (p. 6)
Program evaluation (p. 14)
Pseudoscience (p. 7)
Skepticism (p. 5)
Temporal precedence (p. 10)
1. Why is it important for anyone in our society to have knowledge of research methods?
2. Why is scientific skepticism useful in furthering our knowledge of behavior? How does the scientific approach differ from other ways of gaining knowledge about behavior?Page 19
3. Provide (a) definitions and (b) examples of description, prediction, determination of cause, and explanation as goals of scientific research.
4. Describe the three elements for inferring causation.
5. Describe the characteristics of scientific inquiry, according to Goodstein (2000).
6. How does basic research differ from applied research?
1. Read several editorials in the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, USA Today, Washington Post, or another major metropolitan news source and identify the sources used to support the assertions and conclusions. Did the writer use intuition, appeals to authority, scientific evidence, or a combination of these? Give specific examples.
2. Imagine a debate on the following assertion: Behavioral scientists should only conduct research that has immediate practical applications. Develop arguments that support (pro) and oppose (con) the assertion.
3. Imagine a debate on the following assertion: Knowledge of research methods is unnecessary for students who intend to pursue careers in clinical and counseling psychology. Develop arguments that support (pro) and oppose (con) the assertion.
4. You read an article that says, “Eating Disorders May Be More Common in Warm Places.” It also says that a researcher found that the incidence of eating disorders among female students at a university in Florida was higher than at a university in Pennsylvania. Assume that this study accurately describes a difference between students at the two universities. Discuss the finding in terms of the issues of identification of cause and effect and explanation.
5. Identify ways that you might have allowed yourself to accept beliefs or engage in practices that you might have rejected if you had engaged in scientific skepticism. For example, we continually have to remind some of our friends that a claim made in an email may be a hoax or a rumor. Provide specific details of the experience(s). How might you go about investigating whether the claim is valid?
TABLE 1.1: basic = 1, 3, 4; applied = 2, 5, 6
WHERE TO START CHP. 2
· Discuss how a hypothesis differs from a prediction.
· Describe the different sources of ideas for research, including common sense, observation, theories, past research, and practical problems.
· Identify the two functions of a theory.
· Summarize the fundamentals of conducting library research in psychology, including the use of PsycINFO.
· Summarize the information included in the abstract, introduction, method, results, and discussion sections of research articles.
Page 21THE MOTIVATION TO CONDUCT SCIENTIFIC RESEARCH DERIVES FROM A NATURAL CURIOSITY ABOUT THE WORLD. Most people have their first experience with research when their curiosity leads them to ask, “I wonder what would happen if …” or “I wonder why …,” followed by an attempt to answer the question. What are the sources of inspiration for such questions? How do you find out about other people’s ideas and past research? In this chapter, we will explore some sources of scientific ideas. We will also consider the nature of research reports published in professional journals.
RESEARCH QUESTIONS, HYPOTHESES, AND PREDICTIONS
The result of curiosity is a question. Researchers use research questions to identify and describe the broad topic that they are investigating, and then conduct research in order to answer their research questions. A good research question identifies the topic of inquiry specifically enough so that hypotheses and predictions can be made. A hypothesis is also a question; it makes a statement about something that may be true. Hypotheses are more specific versions of research questions; they are directly testable whereas a research question may not be. Thus, a hypothesis is a tentative idea or question that is waiting for evidence to support or refute it. Once a hypothesis is proposed, data must be gathered and evaluated in terms of whether the evidence is consistent or inconsistent with the hypothesis. Researchers also make specific predictions concerning the outcome of research. Where a research question is broad and a hypothesis is more specific, a prediction is a guess at the outcome of a hypothesis. If a prediction is confirmed by the results of the study, the hypothesis is supported. If the prediction is not confirmed, the researcher will either reject the hypothesis or conduct further research using different methods to study the hypothesis. It is important to note that when the results of a study confirm a prediction, the hypothesis is only supported, not proven. Researchers study the same hypothesis using a variety of methods, and each time this hypothesis is supported by a research study, we become more confident that the hypothesis is correct.
Figure 2.1 shows the relationships among research questions, hypotheses, and predictions graphically. As an example, consider Cramer, Mayer, and Ryan (2007). They had general questions about college students’ use of cell phones while driving: “Are there differences among groups in terms of their use of cell phones while driving?” and “What impact do passengers have on cell phone use while driving?” With these research questions in mind, the researchers developed some hypotheses: “Do males and females differ in their use of cell phones while driving?” or “Does having a passenger in the car make a difference in cell phone use?” They also made specific predictions: “Females are more likely to use a cell phone while driving” and “passengers decrease the likelihood that cell phones are used while driving.” Then, they designed a procedure for collecting data to answer the questions.
Relationships among research questions, hypotheses, and predictions
WHO WE STUDY: A NOTE ON TERMINOLOGY
We have been using the term participants to refer to the individuals who participate in research projects. An equivalent term in psychological research is subjects. The Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association (APA, 2010) allows the use of either participants or subjects when describing humans who take part in psychological research. You will see both terms when you read about research; both terms will be used in this book. Other terms that you may encounter include respondents and informants. The individuals who take part in survey research are usually called respondents. Informants are the people who help researchers understand the dynamics of particular cultural and organizational settings—this term originated in anthropological and sociological research, and is now being used by psychologists as well. In many research reports more specific descriptions of the participants will be used, for example: employees in an organization, students in a classroom, or residents of an assisted living facility.
SOURCES OF IDEAS
It is not easy to say where good ideas come from. Many people are capable of coming up with worthwhile ideas but find it difficult to verbalize the process by which they are generated. Cartoonists know this—they show a brilliant idea as a lightbulb flashing on over the person’s head. But where does the electricity come from? Let’s consider five sources of ideas: common sense, observation of the world around us, theories, past research, and practical problems.
One source of ideas that can be tested is the body of knowledge called common sense—the things we all believe to be true. Do “opposites attract” or do “birds of a feather flock together?” If you “spare the rod,” do you “spoil the child?” Is a “picture worth a thousand words?” Asking questions such as these can lead to research programs studying attraction, the effects of punishment, and the role of visual images in learning and memory.
Testing a commonsense idea can be valuable because such notions do not always turn out to be correct, or research may show that the real world is much more complicated than our commonsense ideas would have it. For example, pictures can aid memory under certain circumstances, but sometimes pictures detract from learning (see Levin, 1983). Conducting research to test commonsense ideas often forces us to go beyond a commonsense theory of behavior.
Observation of the World Around Us
Observations of personal and social events can provide many ideas for research. The curiosity sparked by your observations and experiences can lead you to ask questions about all sorts of phenomena. In fact, this type of curiosity is what drives many students to engage in their first research project.
Have you ever had the experience of storing something away in a “special place” where you were sure you could find it later (and where no one else would possibly look for it), only to later discover that you could not recall where you had stored it? Such an experience could lead to systematic research on whether it is a good idea to put things in special places. In fact, Winograd and Soloway (1986) conducted a series of experiments on this very topic. Their research demonstrated that people are likely to forget where something is placed when two conditions are present: (1) The location where the object is placed is judged to be highly memorable and (2) the location is considered a very unlikely place for the object. Thus, although it may seem to be a good idea at the time, storing something in an unusual place is generally not a good idea.
A more recent example demonstrates the diversity of ideas that can be generated by curiosity about things that happen around you. During the past few years, there has been a great deal of controversy about the effects of content of music lyrics that are sexually explicit or deal with drugs and alcohol. Specifically, there are fears that exposure to such lyrics in certain types of rock and hip hop music may lead to sexual promiscuity, drug use, and other undesirable outcomes. These speculations can then spur research. Slater and Henry (2013), as an example, surveyed middle-school students about their access to music-related content in various media sources and discovered that increasing exposure to popular music was a risk factor for starting to use alcohol, tobacco, and marijuana.
Observations of the world around us may even lead to an academic career. When he was an undergraduate, psychologist Michael Lynn worked in restaurants with much of his compensation dependent on tips from customers. That Page 24experience sparked an interest in studying tipping. For many years, Lynn has studied tipping behavior in restaurants and hotels in the United States and in other countries (Tipping Expert, 2013). He has looked at factors that increase tips, such as posture, touching, and phrases written on a check, and his research has had an impact on the hotel and restaurant industry. If you have ever worked in restaurants, you have undoubtedly formed many of your own hypotheses about tipping behavior. Lynn went one step further and took a scientific approach to testing his ideas. His research illustrates that taking a scientific approach to a problem can lead to new discoveries and important applications.
Finally, we should mention the role of serendipity—sometimes the most interesting discoveries are the result of accident or sheer luck. Ivan Pavlov is best known for discovering what is called classical conditioning, wherein a neutral stimulus (such as a tone), if paired repeatedly with an unconditioned stimulus (food) that produces a reflex response (salivation), will eventually produce the response when presented alone. Pavlov did not set out to discover classical conditioning. Instead, he was studying the digestive system in dogs by measuring their salivation when given food. He accidentally discovered that the dogs were salivating prior to the actual feeding and then studied the ways that the stimuli preceding the feeding could produce a salivation response. Of course, such accidental discoveries are made only when viewing the world with an inquisitive eye.
Much research in the behavioral sciences tests theories of behavior. A theory consists of a systematic body of ideas about a particular topic or phenomenon. Psychologists have theories relating to human behavior including learning, memory, and personality, for example. These ideas form a coherent and logically consistent structure that serves two important functions.
First, theories organize and explain a variety of specific facts or descriptions of behavior. Such facts and descriptions are not very meaningful by themselves, and so theories are needed to impose a framework on them. This framework makes the world more comprehensible by providing a few abstract concepts around which we can organize and explain a variety of behaviors. As an example, consider how Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution organized and explained a variety of facts concerning the characteristics of animal species. Similarly, in psychology one classic theory of memory asserts that there are separate systems of short-term memory and long-term memory. This theory accounts for a number of specific observations about learning and memory, including such phenomena as the different types of memory deficits that result from a blow to the head versus damage to the hippocampus area of the brain and the rate at which a person forgets material he or she has just read.
Second, theories generate new knowledge by focusing our thinking so that we notice new aspects of behavior—theories guide our observations of the Page 25world. The theory generates hypotheses about behavior, and the researcher conducts studies to test the hypotheses. If the studies confirm the hypotheses, the theory is supported. As more and more evidence accumulates that is consistent with the theory, we become more confident that the theory is correct.
Sometimes people describe a theory as “just an idea” that may or may not be true. We need to separate this use of the term—which implies that a theory is essentially the same as a hypothesis—from the scientific meaning of theory. In fact, a scientific theory consists of much more than a simple “idea.” A scientific theory is grounded in actual data from prior research as well as numerous hypotheses that are consistent with the theory. These hypotheses can be tested through further research. Such testable hypotheses are falsifiable—the data can either support or refute the hypotheses. As a theory develops with more and more evidence that supports the theory, it is wrong to say that it is “just an idea.” Instead, the theory becomes well established as it enables us to explain a great many observable facts. It is true that research may reveal a weakness in a theory when a hypothesis generated by the theory is not supported. When this happens, the theory can be modified to account for the new data. Sometimes a new theory will emerge that accounts for both new data and the existing body of knowledge. This process defines the way that science continually develops with new data that expand our knowledge of the world around us.
Evolutionary theory has influenced our understanding of sexual attraction and mating patterns (Buss, 2011). For example, Buss describes a well-established finding that males experience more intense feelings of jealousy when a partner has a sexual relationship with someone else (sexual infidelity) than when the partner has developed an emotional bond only (emotional infidelity); females in contrast are more jealous when the partner has engaged in emotional infidelity than sexual infidelity. This finding is consistent with evolutionary theory, which asserts that males and females have evolved different strategies for mate selection. All individuals have an evolutionary interest in passing their genes on to future generations. However, females have relatively few opportunities to reproduce, have a limited age range during which to reproduce, and traditionally have had to assume major child caring responsibilities. Males, in contrast, can reproduce at any time and have a reproductive advantage by their ability to produce more offspring than a given female can. Because of these differences, the theory predicts that females and males will have different perspectives of infidelity. Females will be more threatened if the partner might no longer provide support and resources for childrearing by developing an emotional bond with another partner. Males are more distressed if it is possible that they will be caring for a child who does not share their genes. Although research supports evolutionary theory, alternative theories can be developed that may better explain the same findings.
Levy and Kelly (2010) suggest that attachment theory may provide a better explanation. They point out that both males and females differ in their level of attachment in relationships. Also, females in general show greater attachment than do males. From the perspective of attachment theory, the amount Page 26of attachment will be related to the distress experienced by an instance of emotional infidelity. Research by Levy and Kelly found that high attachment individuals were most upset by emotional infidelity; individuals with low attachment to the relationship were more distressed by sexual infidelity. These findings will lead to more research to test the two theoretical perspectives.
Theories are usually modified as new research defines the scope of the theory. The necessity of modifying theories is illustrated by the theory of short-term versus long-term memory mentioned previously. The original conception of the long-term memory system described long-term memory as a storehouse of permanent, fixed memories. However, now-classic research by cognitive psychologists, including Loftus (1979), has shown that memories are easily reconstructed and reinterpreted. In one study, participants watched a film of an automobile accident and later were asked to tell what they saw in the film. Loftus found that participants’ memories were influenced by the way they were questioned. For example, participants who were asked whether they saw “the” broken headlight were more likely to answer yes than were participants who were asked whether they saw “a” broken headlight. Results such as these have required a more complex theory of how long-term memory operates.
A fourth source of ideas is past research. Becoming familiar with a body of research on a topic is perhaps the best way to generate ideas for new research. Because the results of research are published, researchers can use the body of past literature on a topic to continually refine and expand our knowledge. Virtually every study raises questions that can be addressed in subsequent research. The research may lead to an attempt to apply the findings in a different setting, to study the topic with a different age group, or to use a different methodology to replicate the results. In the Cramer et al. (2007) study on cell phone use while driving, trained observers noted cell phone use of 3,650 students leaving campus parking structures during a 3-hour period on two different days. They reported that 11% of all drivers were using cell phones. Females were more likely than males to be using a cell phone, and drivers with passengers were less likely to be talking than solitary drivers. Knowledge of this study might lead to research on ways to reduce students’ cell phone use while driving.
In addition, as you become familiar with the research literature on a topic, you may see inconsistencies in research results that need to be investigated, or you may want to study alternative explanations for the results. Also, what you know about one research area often can be successfully applied to another research area.
Let’s look at a concrete example of a study that was designed to address methodological flaws in previous research. In Chapter 1 , we discussed research on a method—called facilitated communication—intended to help children who are diagnosed with autism. Childhood autism is characterized by a number of symptoms including severe impairments in language and communication Page 27ability. Parents and care providers were greatly encouraged by facilitated communication, which allowed an autistic child to communicate with others by pressing keys on a keyboard showing letters and other symbols. A facilitator held the child’s hand to facilitate the child’s ability to determine which key to press. With this technique, many autistic children began communicating their thoughts and feelings and answered questions posed to them. Most people who saw facilitated communication in action regarded the technique as a miraculous breakthrough.
The conclusion that facilitated communication was effective was based on a comparison of the autistic child’s ability to communicate with and without the facilitator. The difference is impressive to most observers. Recall, however, that scientists are by nature skeptical. They examine all evidence carefully and ask whether claims are justified. In the case of facilitated communication, Montee, Miltenberger, and Wittrock (1995) noted that the facilitator might have been unintentionally guiding the child’s fingers to type meaningful sentences. In other words, the facilitator, and not the autistic individual, might be controlling the communication. Montee et al. conducted a study to test this idea. In one condition, both the facilitator and the autistic child were shown a picture, and the child was asked to indicate what was shown in the picture by typing a response with the facilitator. This was done on a number of trials. In another condition, only the child saw the pictures. In a third condition, the child and facilitator were shown different pictures (but the facilitator was unaware of this fact). Consistent with the hypothesis that the facilitator is controlling the child’s responses, the pictures were correctly identified only in the condition in which both saw the same pictures. Moreover, when the child and facilitator viewed different pictures, the child never made the correct response, and usually the picture the facilitator had seen was the one identified.
Research is also stimulated by practical problems that can have immediate applications. Groups of city planners and citizens might survey bicycle riders to determine the most desirable route for a city bike path, for example. On a larger scale, researchers have guided public policy by conducting research on obesity and eating disorders, as well as other social and health issues. Much of the applied and evaluation research described in Chapter 1 addresses issues such as these.
EXPLORING PAST RESEARCH
Before conducting any research project, an investigator must have a thorough knowledge of previous research findings. Even if the researcher formulates the basic idea, a review of past studies will help the researcher clarify the idea and Page 28design of the study. Thus, it is important to know how to search the literature on a topic and how to read research reports in professional journals. In this section, we will discuss only the fundamentals of conducting library research; for further information, you should go to your college library and talk with a librarian (large libraries may have a librarian devoted to providing assistance in psychology and other behavioral sciences). Librarians have specialized training and a lot of practical experience in conducting library research. You may also refer to a more detailed guide to library research in psychology, such as Reed and Baxter (2003), or to the numerous library guides available on the Internet. You may also find guides to help you prepare a paper that reviews research; Rosnow and Rosnow (2009) is an example.
The Nature of Journals
If you have looked through your library’s collection of periodicals, you have noticed the enormous number of professional journals. In these journals, researchers publish the results of their investigations. After a research project has been completed, the study is written as a report, which then may be submitted to the editor of an appropriate journal. The editor solicits reviews from other scientists in the same field and then decides whether the report is to be accepted for publication. (This is the process of peer review described in Chapter 1 .) Because each journal has a limited amount of space and receives many more papers than it has room to publish, most papers are rejected. Those that are accepted are published about a year later, although sometimes online editions are published more quickly.
Most psychology journals specialize in one or two areas of human or animal behavior. Even so, the number of journals in many areas is so large that it is almost impossible for anyone to read them all. Table 2.1 lists some of the major journals in several areas of psychology; the table does not list any journals that are published only on the Internet, and it does not include many journals that publish in areas closely related to psychology as well as highly specialized areas within psychology. Clearly, it would be difficult to read all of the journals listed, even if you restricted your reading to a single research area in psychology such as learning and memory. If you were seeking research on a single specific topic, it would be impractical to look at every issue of every journal in which relevant research might be published. Fortunately, you do not have to.
Online Scholarly Research Databases: PsycINFO
The American Psychological Association began the monthly publication of Psychological Abstracts, or Psych Abstracts, in 1927. The abstracts are brief summaries of articles in psychology and related disciplines indexed by topic area. Today, the abstracts are maintained in a computer database called PsycINFO , which is accessed via the Internet and is updated weekly. The exact procedures you will use to search PsycINFO will depend on how your library has arranged to obtain access to the database. In all cases, you will obtain a list of abstracts that are related to your particular topic of interest. You can then find and read the articles in your library or, in many cases, link to full text that your library subscribes to. If an important article is not available in your library, ask a librarian about services to obtain articles from other libraries.
TABLE 2.1 Some major journals in psychology
Conducting a PsycINFO Search
The exact look and feel of the system you will use to search PsycINFO will depend on your library website. Your most important task is to specify the search terms that you want the database to use. These are typed into a search box. How do you know what words to type in the search box? Most commonly, you will want to use standard psychological terms. The “Thesaurus of Psychological Index Terms” lists all the standard terms that are used to index the abstracts, and it can be accessed directly with most PsycINFO systems. Suppose you are interested in the topic of distraction while driving. It turns out that distraction and driving behavior are both terms in the thesaurus. While using the thesaurus, you can check any term and then request a search of that term. Of course, you can search using any term or phrase that is relevant to your topic. When you give the command to start the search, the results of the search will be displayed.
Below is the output of one of the articles found with a search on distraction and driving behavior. The exact appearance of the output that you receive will depend on the your library’s search system. The default output includes citation information that you will need along with the abstract itself. Notice that the output is organized into “fields” of information. The full name of each field is included here; many systems allow abbreviations. You will almost always want to see the title, author, source/publication title, and abstract. Note that you also have fields such as publication type, keywords to briefly describe the article, and age group. When you do the search, some fields will appear as hyperlinks to lead you to other information in your library database or to other websites. Systems are continually being upgraded to enable users to more easily obtain full-text access to the articles and find other articles on similar topics. The digital object identifier (DOI) is particularly helpful in finding full-text sources of the article and is now provided with other publication information when journal articles are referenced.
The reference for the article is:
Weller, J. A., Shackleford, C., Dieckmann, N., & Slovic, P. (2013). Possession attachment predicts cell phone use while driving. Health Psychology, 32(4), 379–387. doi:10.1037/a0029265
Page 32PsycINFO output appears as follows:
|Title:||Possession attachment predicts cell phone use while driving.|
|Authors:||Weller, Joshua A., Decision Research, Eugene, OR, US, firstname.lastname@example.orgShackleford, Crystal, Department of Psychology, University of Oregon, Eugene, OR, USDieckmann, Nathan, Decision Research, Eugene, OR, USSlovic, Paul, Decision Research, Eugene, OR, US|
|Address:||Weller, Joshua A., Decision Research 1201 Oak Street, Suite 200, Eugene, OR, US, 97401, email@example.com|
|Source:||Health Psychology, Vol 32(4), Apr, 2013. pp. 379–387.|
|Publisher:||US: American Psychological Association|
|Other Publishers:||US: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates|
|ISSN:||1930-7810 (Electronic)0278-6133 (Print)|
|Keywords:||cell phone use while driving, distracted driving, individual differences, possession attachment, risk perception|
|Abstract:||Objective: Distracted driving has become an important public health concern. However, little is known about the predictors of this health-risking behavior. One overlooked risk factor for distracted driving is the perceived attachment that one feels toward his or her phone. Prior research has suggested that individuals develop bonds toward objects, and qualitative research suggests that the bond between young drivers and their phones can be strong. It follows that individuals who perceive a strong attachment to their phone would be more likely to use it, even when driving. Method: In a nationally representative sample of young drivers (17–28 years), participants (n = 1,006) completed a survey about driving behaviors and phone use. Risk perception surrounding cell phone use while driving and perceived attachment to one’s phone were assessed by administering factor-analytically derived scales that were created as part of a larger project. Results: Attachment toward one’s phone predicted the proportion of trips in which a participant reported using their cell phone while driving, beyond that accounted for by risk perception and overall phone use. Further, attachment predicted self-reported distracted driving behaviors, such as the Page 33use of social media while driving. Conclusions: Attachment to one’s phone may be an important but overlooked risk factor for the engagement of potentially health-risking driving behaviors. Understanding that phone attachment may adversely affect driving behaviors has the potential to inform prevention and intervention efforts designed to reduce distracted driving behaviors, especially in young drivers. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2013 APA, all rights reserved)|
|Subjects:||*Attachment Behavior; *Distraction; *Driving Behavior; *Risk Perception; *Cellular Phones; Individual Differences; Public Health; Risk Factors; Transportation Safety|
|Population:||Human (10)Male (30)Female (40)|
|Age Group:||Adolescence (13-17 yrs) (200)Adulthood (18 yrs & older) (300)Young Adulthood (18-29 yrs) (320)|
|Tests & Measures:||CPUWD Risk-Perception Scale [Appended]|
|Grant Sponsorship:||Sponsor: American Automobile Association Foundation for Traffic SafetyGrant: AAAFTS 51028|
|Methodology:||Empirical Study; Quantitative Study|
|Publication Type:||Journal; Peer Reviewed Journal|
|Document Type:||Journal Article|
|Publication History:||First Posted Date: Aug 27, 2012; Accepted Date: Feb 3, 2012;Revised Date: Feb 2, 2012; First Submitted Date: Apr 29, 2011|
|Copyright:||American Psychological Association. 2012.|
|Digital Object Identifier:||10.1037/a0029265|
|Number of Citations||48|
Page 34When you do a simple search with a single word or a phrase such as distraction, the default search yields articles that have that word or phrase anywhere in any of the fields listed. Often you will find that this produces too many articles, including articles that are not directly relevant to your interests. One way to narrow the search is to limit it to certain fields. Your PsycINFO search screen will allow you to limit the search to one field, such as the title of the article. You can also learn how to type a search that includes the field you want. For example, you could specify distraction in TITLE to limit your search to articles that have the term in the title of the article. Your search screen will also allow you to set limits on your search to specify, for instance, that the search should find only journal articles (not books or dissertations) or include participants from certain age groups.
Most PsycINFO systems have advanced search screens that enable you to use the Boolean operators AND, OR, and NOT. These can be typed as discussed below, but the advanced search screen uses prompts to help you design the search. Suppose you want to restrict the distraction in TITLE search to studies that also examined cell phones. You can do this by asking for (distraction in TITLE) AND (cell phone). The AND forces both conditions to be true for an article to be included. The parentheses are used to separate different parts of your search specification and are useful when your searches become increasingly complicated.
The OR operation is used to expand a search that is too narrow. Suppose you want to find articles that discuss romantic relationships on the Internet. A PsycINFO search for Internet AND romance in any field produces 59 articles; changing the specification to Internet AND (romance OR dating OR love) yields 330 articles. Articles that have the term Internet and any of the other three terms specified were included in the second search.
The NOT operation will exclude sources based on a criterion you specify. The NOT operation is used when you anticipate that the search criteria will be met by some irrelevant abstracts. In the Internet example, it is possible that the search will include articles on child predators. To exclude the term child from the results of the search, the following adjustment can be made: Internet AND (romance OR dating OR love) NOT child. When this search was conducted, 303 abstracts were found instead of the 330 obtained previously.
Another helpful search tool is the “wildcard” asterisk (*). The asterisk stands for any set of letters in a word and so it can expand your search. Consider the word romance in the search above—by using roman*, the search will expand to include both romance and romantic. The wildcard can be very useful with the term child* to find child, children, childhood,and so on. You have to be careful when doing this, however; the roman* search would also find Romania and romanticism. In this case, it might be more efficient to simply add OR romantic to the search. These and other search strategies are summarized in Figure 2.2 .
It is a good idea to give careful thought to your search terms. Consider the case of a student who decided to do a paper on the topic of road rage. She wanted to know what might cause drivers to become so angry at other drivers that they become physically aggressive. A search on the term road rage led to a number of interesting articles. However, when looking at the output from the search, she noticed that the major keywords included driving behavior and anger but not road rage. When she asked about this, we realized that she had only found articles that included the term road rage in the title or abstract. This term has become popular, but it may not be used in many academic studies of the topic. She then expanded the search to include driving AND anger. The new search yielded many articles not found in the original search.
Some strategies for searching research databases
Page 36As you review the results of your search, you can print, save, or send information to your email address. Other options such as printing a citation in APA style may also be available.
Science Citation Index and Social Sciences Citation Index
Two related search resources are the Science Citation Index (SCI) and the Social Sciences Citation Index (SSCI). These are usually accessed together using the Web of Science computer database. Both allow you to search through citation information such as the name of the author or article title. The SCI includes disciplines such as biology, chemistry, biomedicine, and pharmacology, whereas the SSCI includes social and behavioral sciences such as sociology and criminal justice. The most important feature of both resources is the ability to use the “key article” method. Here you need to first identify a key article on your topic that is particularly relevant to your interests. Choose an article that was published sufficiently long ago to allow time for subsequent related research to be conducted and reported. You can then search for the subsequent articles that cited the key article. This search will give you a bibliography of articles relevant to your topic. To provide an example of this process, we chose the following article:
Fleming, M., & Rickwood, D. (2001). Effects of violent versus nonviolent video games on children’s arousal, aggressive mood, and positive mood. Journal of Applied Social Psychology, 31(10), 2047–2071. doi:10.1111/j.1559-1816.2001.tb00163.x
When we did an article search using the SSCI, we found 17 articles that had cited the Fleming and Rickwood paper since it was published in 2001. Here is one of them:
Lim, S., & Reeves, B. (2009). Being in the game: Effects of avatar choice and point of view on psychophysiological responses during play. Media Psychology, 12(4), 348–370. doi:10.1080/15213260903287242
This article as well as the others on the list might then be retrieved. It may then turn out that one or more of the articles might become new key articles for further searches. It is also possible to specify a “key person” in order to find all articles written by or citing a particular person after a given date.
Other Electronic Search Resources
The American Psychological Association maintains several databases in addition to PsycINFO. These include PsycARTICLES, consisting of full-text scholarly articles, and PsycBOOKS, a database of full-text books and book chapters. Other major databases include Sociological Abstracts, PubMed, and ERIC (Educational Resources Information Center).In addition, services such as LexisNexis Academic and Factiva allow you to search general media resources such as newspapers. A reference librarian can help you use these and other resources available to you.
The most widely available information resource is the wealth of material that is available on the Internet and located using search services such as Google. The Internet is a wonderful source of information; any given search may help you find websites devoted to your topic, articles that people have made available to others, book reviews, and even online discussions. Although it is incredibly easy to search (just type something in a dialog box and press the Enter key), you can improve the quality of your searches by learning (1) the differences in the way each service finds and stores information; (2) advanced search rules, including how to make searches more narrow and how to find exact phrases; and (3) ways to critically evaluate the quality of the information that you find. You also need to make sure that you carefully record the search service and search terms you used, the dates of your search, and the exact location of any websites that you will be using in your research; this information will be useful as you provide documentation in the papers that you prepare.
Google Scholar Google Scholar is a specialized scholarly search engine that can be accessed at http://scholar.google.com . When you do a search using Google Scholar, you find articles, theses, books, abstracts, and court opinions from a wide range of sources, including academic publishers, professional societies, online repositories, universities, and other websites. Just like Google ranks the output of a standard search, Google Scholar ranks the output of a Google Scholar search. In the case of Google Scholar, search output is ranked by the contents of the article (i.e., did the article contain the keywords that were used in the search?) along with an article’s overall prominence based on author, journal, and how often it is cited in other articles.
Google Scholar operates like any other Google search. Access Google Scholar at http://scholar.google.com and type in a keyword as you would in a basic PsycINFO search. The key difference is that whereas the universe of content for PsycINFO comes from the published works in the psychology and related sciences, the universe for Google Scholar includes the entire Internet. This can be both a strength and a weakness. If your topic is Page 38broad—for example, if you were interested in doing a search for depression or ADHD or color perception—Google Scholar would generate many more hits than would PsycINFO. Indeed, many of those hits would not be from the scientific literature. On the other hand, if you have a narrow search (e.g., adult ADHD treatment; color perception and reading speed), then Google Scholar would generate a set of results more closely aligned with your intentions.
Evaluating Web information Your own library and a variety of websites have information on evaluating the quality of information found on the Internet. Some of the most important things to look for are listed here:
· Is the site associated with a major educational institution or research organization? A site sponsored by a single individual or an organization with a clear bias should be viewed with skepticism.
· Is information provided on the people who are responsible for the site? Can you check on the credentials of these individuals?
· Is the information current?
· Do links from the site lead to legitimate organizations?
Finally, literature reviews are another good way to explore past research. Articles that summarize the research in a particular area are also useful; these are known as literature reviews. The journal Psychological Bulletin publishes reviews of the literature in various topic areas in psychology. Each year, the Annual Review of Psychology publishes articles that summarize recent developments in various areas of psychology. Other disciplines have similar annual reviews.
The following article is an example of a literature review:
Gatchel, R. J., Peng, Y. B., Peters, M. L., Fuchs, P. N., & Turk, D. C. (2007). The biopsychosocial approach to chronic pain: Scientific advances and future directions. Psychological Bulletin, 133, 581–624. doi:10.1037/0033-2909.133.4.581
The authors of this article reviewed the past literature relating the biopsychosocial approach to understanding chronic pain. They described a very large number of studies on the biological aspects of pain along with research on psychological and social influences. They also point to new methods and directions for the field.
When conducting a search, you might want to focus on finding review articles. Adding review as a search term in the title of the article will generate review articles in your results.
ANATOMY OF A RESEARCH ARTICLE
Your literature search has helped you find research articles to read. What can you expect to find in these articles? Research articles usually have five sections: (1) an abstract, such as the ones found in PsycINFO; (2) an Introduction that explains the problem under investigation and the specific hypotheses being tested; (3) a Method section that describes in detail the exact procedures used in the study; (4) a Results section in which the findings are presented; and (5) a Discussion section in which the researcher may speculate on the broader implications of the results, propose alternative explanations for the results, discuss reasons that a particular hypothesis may not have been supported by the data, and/or make suggestions for further research on the problem. In addition to the five major sections, you will find a list of all the references that were cited. Review the summary of the sections in Figure 2.3 as you read about each section in greater detail.
The abstract is a summary of the research report and typically runs no more than 120 words in length. It includes information about the hypothesis, the procedure, and the broad pattern of results. Generally, little information is abstracted from the Discussion section of the paper.
Major sections of a research article
In the Introduction section, the researcher outlines the problem that has been investigated. Past research and theories relevant to the problem are described in detail. The specific expectations of the researcher are noted, often as formal hypotheses. In other words, the investigator introduces the research in a logical format that shows how past research and theory are connected to the current research problem and the expected results.
The Method section is divided into subsections, with the number of subsections determined by the author and dependent on the complexity of the research design. Sometimes, the first subsection presents an overview of the design to prepare the reader for the material that follows. The next subsection describes the characteristics of the participants. Were they male or female, or were both sexes used? What was the average age? How many participants were included? If the study used human participants, some mention of how participants were recruited for the study would be needed. The next subsection details the procedure used in the study. In describing any stimulus materials presented to the participants, the way the behavior of the participants was recorded, and so on, it is important that no potentially crucial detail be omitted. Such detail allows the reader to know exactly how the study was conducted, and it provides other researchers with the information necessary to replicate the study. Other subsections may be necessary to describe in detail any equipment or testing materials that were used.
In the Results section, the researcher presents the findings, usually in three ways. First, there is a description in narrative form—for example, “The location of items was most likely to be forgotten when the location was both highly memorable and an unusual place for the item to be stored.” Second, the results are described in statistical language. Third, the material is often depicted in tables and graphs.
The statistical terminology of the Results section may appear formidable. However, lack of knowledge about the calculations is not really a deterrent to understanding the article or the logic behind the statistics. Statistics are only a tool the researcher uses in evaluating the outcomes of the study.
In the Discussion section, the researcher reviews the research from various perspectives. Do the results support the hypothesis? If they do, the author should give all possible explanations for the results and discuss why one Page 41explanation is superior to another. If the hypothesis has not been supported, the author should suggest potential reasons. What might have been wrong with the methodology, the hypothesis, or both? The researcher may also discuss how the results compare with past research results on the topic. This section may also include suggestions for possible practical applications of the research and for future research on the topic.
You should familiarize yourself with some actual research articles. Appendix A includes an entire article in manuscript form. An easy way to find more articles in areas that interest you is to visit the website of the American Psychological Association (APA) at www.apa.org . All the APA journals listed in Table 2.1 have links that you can find by going to www.apa.org/journals . When you select a journal that interests you, you will go to a page that allows you to read recent articles published in the journal. Read articles to become familiar with the way information is presented in reports. As you read, you will develop ways of efficiently processing the information in the articles. It is usually best to read the abstract first, then skim the article to decide whether you can use the information provided. If you can, go back and read the article carefully. Note the hypotheses and theories presented in the introduction, write down anything that seems unclear or problematic in the method, and read the results in view of the material in the introduction. Be critical when you read the article; students often generate the best criticism. Most important, as you read more research on a topic, you will become more familiar with the variables being studied, the methods used to study the variables, the important theoretical issues being considered, and the problems that need to be addressed by future research. In short, you will find yourself generating your own research ideas and planning your own studies.
Abstract ( p. 39 )
Discussion section ( p. 40 )
Hypothesis ( p. 21 )
Introduction section ( p. 40 )
Literature review ( p. 38 )
Method section ( p. 40 )
Prediction ( p. 21 )
PsycINFO ( p. 31 )
Research questions ( p. 21 )
Results section ( p. 40 )
Science Citation Index (SCI) ( p. 36 )
Social Sciences Citation Index (SSCI) ( p. 36 )
Theory ( p. 24 )
Web of Science ( p. 36 )
1. What is a hypothesis? What is the distinction between a hypothesis and a prediction?
2. What are the two functions of a theory?Page 42
3. Describe the difference in the way that past research is found when you use PsycINFO versus the “key article” method of the Science Citation Index/Social Sciences Citation Index (Web of Science).
4. What information does the researcher communicate in each of the sections of a research article?
1. Think of at least five “commonsense” sayings about behavior (e.g., “Spare the rod, spoil the child”; “Like father, like son”; “Absence makes the heart grow fonder”). For each, develop a hypothesis that is suggested by the saying and a prediction that follows from the hypothesis. (Based on Gardner, 1988.)
2. Choose one of the hypotheses formulated in Activity 1 and develop a strategy for finding research on the topic using the computer database in your library.
3. Theories serve two purposes: (1) to organize and explain observable events and (2) to generate new knowledge by guiding our way of looking at these events. Identify a consistent behavior pattern in yourself or somebody close to you (e.g., you consistently get into an argument with your sister on Friday nights). Generate two possible theories (explanations) for this occurrence (e.g., because you work long hours on Friday, you are usually stressed and exhausted when you get home; because your sister has a chemistry quiz every Friday afternoon and she’s not doing well in the course, she is very irritable on Fridays). How would you gather evidence to determine which explanation might be correct? How might each explanation lead to different approaches to changing the behavior pattern, either to decrease or increase its occurrence?
ETHICS IN BEHAVIORAL RESEARCH CHP. 3
· 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.
The Nuremberg Code and the Helsinki Declaration did not explicitly address behavioral research and were generally seen as applicable to medicine. In addition, by the early 1970s, news about numerous ethically questionable studies forced the scientific community to search for a better approach to protect human research subjects. Behavioral scientists were debating the ethics of the Milgram studies and the world was learning about the Tuskegee Syphilis Study, in which 399 African American men in Alabama were not treated for syphilis in order to track the long-term effects of this disease (Reverby, 2000). This study, supported by the U.S. Public Health Service, took place from 1932 to 1972, when the details of the study were made public by journalists investigating the study. The outrage over the fact that this study was done at all and that the subjects were African Americans spurred scientists to overhaul ethical regulations in both medical and behavioral research. The fact that the Tuskegee study was not an isolated incident was brought to light in 2010 when documentation of another syphilis study done from 1946 to 1948 in Guatemala was discovered (Reverby, 2011). Men and women in this study were infected with syphilis and then treated with penicillin. Reverby describes the study in detail and focuses on one doctor who was involved in both the Guatemala and Tuskegee studies.
As a result of new public demand for action, a committee was formed that eventually produced the Belmont Report . Current ethical guidelines for both behavioral and medical researchers have their origins in The Belmont Report: Ethical Principles and Guidelines for the Protection of Human Subjects of Research (National Commission for the Protection of Human Subjects of Biomedical and Behavioral Research, 1979). This report defined the principles and applications that have guided more detailed regulations developed by the American Psychological Association and other professional societies and U.S. federal regulations that apply to both medical and behavioral research investigations.
The three basic ethical principles of the Belmont Report are:
· Beneficence—research should confer benefits and risks must be minimal. The associated application is the necessity to conduct a risk-benefit analysis.
· Respect for persons (autonomy)—participants are treated as autonomous; they are capable of making deliberate decisions about whether to participate in research. The associated application is informed Page 47consent—potential participants in a research project should be provided with all information that might influence their decision on whether to participate.
· Justice—there must be fairness in receiving the benefits of research as well as bearing the burdens of accepting risks. This principle is applied in the selection of subjects for research.
APA ETHICS CODE
The American Psychological Association (APA) has provided leadership in formulating ethical principles and standards. The Ethical Principles of Psychologists and Code of Conduct—known as the APA Ethics Code —is amended periodically with the current version always available online at http://apa.org/ethics/code. The Ethics Code applies to psychologists in their many roles including teachers, researchers, and practitioners. We have included the sections relevant to research in Appendix B.
APA Ethics Code: Five Principles
The APA Ethics Code includes five general ethical principles: beneficence and nonmaleficence, fidelity and responsibility, integrity, justice, and respect for rights and responsibilities. Next, we will discuss the ways that these principles relate to research practice.
Principle A: Beneficence and Nonmaleficence As in the Belmont Report, the principle of Beneficence refers to the need for research to maximize benefits and minimize any possible harmful effects of participation. The Ethics Code specifically states: “Psychologists strive to benefit those with whom they work and take care to do no harm. In their professional actions, psychologists seek to safeguard the welfare and rights of those with whom they interact professionally and other affected persons and the welfare of animal subjects of research.”
Principle B: Fidelity and Responsibility The principle of Fidelity and Responsibility states: “Psychologists establish relationships of trust with those with whom they work. They are aware of their professional and scientific responsibilities to society and to the specific communities in which they work.” For researchers, such trust is primarily applicable to relationships with research participants.
Researchers make several implicit contracts with participants during the course of a study. For example, if participants agree to be present for a study at a specific time, the researcher should also be there. If researchers promise to send a summary of the results to participants, they should do so. If participants are to receive course credit for participation, the researcher must immediately let the instructor know that the person took part in the study. These may seem Page 48to be little details, but they are very important in maintaining trust between participants and researchers.
Principle C: Integrity The principle of Integrity states: “Psychologists seek to promote accuracy, honesty and truthfulness in the science, teaching and practice of psychology. In these activities psychologists do not steal, cheat or engage in fraud, subterfuge or intentional misrepresentation of fact.” Later in this chapter, we will cover the topic of integrity in the context of being an ethical researcher.
Principle D: Justice As in the Belmont Report, the principle of Justice refers to fairness and equity. Principle D states: “Psychologists recognize that fairness and justice entitle all persons to access to and benefit from the contributions of psychology and to equal quality in the processes, procedures and services being conducted by psychologists.”
Consider the Tuskegee Syphilis study, or the similar study conducted in Guatemala. In both cases there was a cure for syphilis (i.e., penicillin) that was withheld from participants. This is a violation of principle D of the APA Ethics Code and a violation of the Belmont Report’s principle of Justice.
Principle E: Respect for People’s Rights and Dignity The last of the five APA ethical principles builds upon the Belmont Report principle of Respect for Persons. It states: “Psychologists respect the dignity and worth of all people, and the rights of individuals to privacy, confidentiality, and self-determination. Psychologists are aware that special safeguards may be necessary to protect the rights and welfare of persons or communities whose vulnerabilities impair autonomous decision making. Psychologists are aware of and respect cultural, individual, and role differences, including those based on age, gender, gender identity, race, ethnicity, culture, national origin, religion, sexual orientation, disability, language, and socioeconomic status, and consider these factors when working with members of such groups. Psychologists try to eliminate the effect on their work of biases based on those factors, and they do not knowingly participate in or condone activities of others based upon such prejudices.”
One of the ethical dilemmas in the Milgram obedience study was the fact that participants did not know that they were participating in a study of obedience. This limited participants’ rights to self-determination. Later, we will explore this issue in depth.
Protecting Research Subjects
The preamble to the APA Ethics Code states: “Psychologists are committed to increasing scientific and professional knowledge of behavior and people’s understanding of themselves and others and to the use of such knowledge to improve the condition of individuals, organizations and society.” By internalizing and adhering to ethical principles we support and nurture a healthy science. Page 49With this in mind, we will consider the ways in which research subjects—humans and animals—are protected in behavioral research.
ASSESSMENT OF RISKS AND BENEFITS
The principle of beneficence leads us to examine potential risks and benefits that are likely to result from the research; this is called a risk-benefit analysis. Ethical principles require asking whether the research procedures have minimized risk to participants.
The potential risks to the participants include such factors as psychological or physical harm and loss of confidentiality; we will discuss these in detail. In addition, the cost of notconducting the study if in fact the proposed procedure is the only way to collect potentially valuable data can be considered (cf. Christensen, 1988). The benefits include direct benefits to the participants, such as an educational benefit, acquisition of a new skill, or treatment for a psychological or medical problem. There may also be material benefits such as a monetary payment, some sort of gift, or even the possibility of winning a prize in a raffle. Other less tangible benefits include the satisfaction gained through being part of a scientific investigation and the potential beneficial applications of the research findings (e.g., the knowledge gained through the research might improve future educational practices, psychotherapy, or social policy). As we will see, current regulations concerning the conduct of research with human participants require a risk-benefit analysis before research can be approved.
Risks in Behavioral Research
Let’s return to a consideration of Milgram’s research. The risk of experiencing stress and psychological harm is obvious. It is not difficult to imagine the effect of delivering intense shocks to an obviously unwilling learner. A film that Milgram made shows participants protesting, sweating, and even laughing nervously while delivering the shocks. You might ask whether subjecting people to such a stressful experiment is justified, and you might wonder whether the experience had any long-range consequences for the volunteers. For example, did participants who obeyed the experimenter feel continuing remorse or begin to see themselves as cruel, inhumane people? Let’s consider some common risks in behavioral research.
Physical harm Procedures that could conceivably cause some physical harm to participants are rare but possible. Many medical procedures fall into this category, for example, administering a drug such as alcohol or caffeine. Other studies might expose subjects to physical stressors such as loud noise, extreme hot or cold temperatures, or deprivation of sleep for an extended period of. The risks in such procedures require that great care be taken to make them ethically acceptable. Moreover, there would need to be clear benefits of the research that would outweigh the potential risks.
Page 50Stress More common than physical stress is psychological stress. The participants in the Milgram study were exposed to a high level of stress; they believed that they were delivering fatal doses of electricity to another person. Milgram described one of his participants:
While continuing to read the word pairs with a show of outward strength, she mutters in a tone of helplessness to the experimenter, “Must I go on? Oh, I’m worried about him. Are we going all the way up there (pointing to the higher end of the generator)? Can’t we stop? I’m shaking. I’m shaking. Do I have to go up there?”
She regains her composure temporarily but then cannot prevent periodic outbursts of distress (Milgram, 1974, p. 80).
There are other examples. For instance, participants might be told that they will receive some extremely intense electric shocks. They never actually receive the shocks; it is the fear or anxiety during the waiting period that is the variable of interest. Research by Schachter (1959) employing a procedure like this showed that the anxiety produced a desire to affiliate with others during the waiting period.
In another procedure that produces psychological stress, participants are given unfavorable feedback about their personalities or abilities. Researchers may administer a test that is described as a measure of social intelligence and then told that they scored very high or very low. The impact of this feedback can then be studied. Asking people about traumatic or unpleasant events in their lives might also cause stress for some participants. Thus, research that asks people to think about the deaths of a parent, spouse, or friend, or their memories of living through a disaster could trigger a stressful reaction.
When using procedures that may create psychological distress, the researcher must ask whether all safeguards have been taken to help participants deal with the stress. Usually a debriefing session following the study is designed in part to address any potential problems that may arise during the research.
Confidentiality and privacy Another risk is the loss of expected privacy and confidentiality. Confidentiality is an issue when the researcher has assured subjects that the collected data are only accessible to people with permission, generally only the researcher. This becomes particularly important when studying topics such as sexual behavior, divorce, family violence, or drug abuse; in these cases, researchers may need to ask people very sensitive questions about their private lives. Or consider a study that obtained information about employees’ managers. It is extremely important that responses to such questions be confidential; revealing the responses of an individual could result in real harm. In most cases, researchers will attempt to avoid confidentiality problems by making sure that the responses are completely anonymous—there is no way to connect any person’s identity with the data. This happens, for example, when questionnaires are administered to groups of people and no Page 51information is asked that could be used to identify an individual (such as name, taxpayer identification number, email address, or phone number). However, in other cases, such as a personal interview in which the identity of the person might be known, the researcher must carefully plan ways of coding data, storing data, and explaining the procedures to participants so that there is no question concerning the confidentiality of responses.
Invasion of privacy becomes an issue when the researcher collects information under circumstances that the subject believes are private—free from unwanted observation by others. In some studies, researchers make observations of behavior in public places without informing the people being observed. Observing people as they are walking in a public space, stopped at a traffic light, or drinking in a bar does not seem to present any major ethical problems. However, what if a researcher wishes to observe behavior in more private settings or in ways that may violate individuals’ privacy (see Wilson & Donnerstein, 1976)? For example, would it be ethical to rummage through people’s trash or watch people in public restrooms? The Internet has posed other issues of privacy. Every day, thousands of people post messages on websites. The messages can potentially be used as data to understand attitudes, disclosure of personal information, and expressions of emotion. Many messages are public postings, much like a letter sent to a newspaper or magazine. But consider websites devoted to psychological and physical problems that people seek out for information and support. Many of these sites require registration to post messages. Consider a researcher interested in using one of these sites for data. What ethical issues arise in this case? Buchanan and Williams (2010) address these and other ethical issues that arise when doing research using the Internet.
Recall Principle E of the APA Ethics Code (Respect for People’s Rights and Dignity)—research participants are to be treated as autonomous. They are capable of making deliberate decisions about whether to participate in research. The key idea here is informed consent—potential participants in a research project should be provided with all information that might influence their active decision of whether or not to participate in a study. Thus, research participants should be informed about the purposes of the study, the risks and benefits of participation, and their rights to refuse or terminate participation in the study. They can then freely consent or refuse to participate in the research.
Informed Consent Form
Participants are usually provided with some type of informed consent form that contains the information that participants need to make their decision. Most commonly, the form is presented for the participant to read and agree Page 52to. There are numerous examples of informed consent forms available on the Internet. Your college may have developed examples through the research office. A checklist for an informed consent form is provided in Figure 3.1. Note that the checklist addresses both content and format. The content will typically cover (1) the purpose of the research, (2) procedures that will be used including time involved (remember that you do not need to tell participants exactly what is being studied), (3) risks and benefits, (4) any compensation, (5) confidentiality, (6) assurance of voluntary participation and permission to withdraw, and (7) contact information for questions.
Creating an informed consent form
Page 53The form must be written so that participants understand the information in the form. In some cases, the form was so technical or loaded with legal terminology that it is very unlikely that the participants fully realized what they were signing. In general, consent forms should be written in simple and straightforward language that avoids jargon and technical terminology (generally at a sixth- to eighth-grade reading level; most word processors provide grade-level information with the Grammar Check feature). To make the form easier to understand, it should not be written in the first person. Instead, information should be provided as if the researcher were simply having a conversation with the participant. Thus, the form might say Participation in this study is voluntary. You may decline to participate without penalty, instead of I understand that participation in this study is voluntary. I may decline to participate without penalty. The first statement is providing information to the participant in a straightforward way using the second person (“you”), whereas the second statement has a legalistic tone that may be more difficult to understand. Finally, if participants are non-English speakers, they should receive a translated version of the form.
Informed consent seems simple enough; however, there are important issues to consider. The first concerns lack of autonomy. What happens when the participants lack the ability to make a free and informed decision to voluntarily participate? Special populations such as minors, patients in psychiatric hospitals, or adults with cognitive impairments require special precautions. When minors are asked to participate, for example, a written consent form signed by a parent or guardian is generally required in addition to agreement by the minor; this agreement by a minor is formally called assent. The Society for Research on Child Development has established guidelines for ethical research with children (see http://www.srcd.org/about-us/ethical-standards-research).
Coercion is another threat to autonomy. Any procedure that limits an individual’s freedom to consent is potentially coercive. For example, a supervisor who asks employees to fill out a survey during a staff meeting or a professor requiring students to participate in a study in order to pass the course is applying considerable pressure on potential participants. The employees may believe that the supervisor will somehow punish them if they do not participate; they also risk embarrassment if they refuse in front of co-workers. Sometimes benefits are so great that they become coercive. For example, a prisoner may believe that increased privileges or even a favorable parole decision may result from participation. Sometimes even an incentive can be seen as coercive—imagine being offered $1,000 to participate in a study. Researchers must consider these issues and make sure that autonomy is preserved.
Withholding Information and Deception
It may have occurred to you that providing all information about the study to participants might be unwise. Providing too much information could potentially invalidate the results of the study; for example, researchers usually will withhold information about the hypothesis of the study or the particular condition an individual is participating in (see Sieber, 1992). It is generally acceptable to withhold information when the information would not affect the decision to participate and when the information will later be provided, usually in a debriefing session when the study is completed. Most people who volunteer for psychology research do not expect full disclosure about the study prior to participation. However, they do expect a thorough debriefing after they have completed the study. Debriefing will be described after we consider the more problematic issue of deception.
It may also have occurred to you that there are research procedures in which informed consent is not necessary or even possible. If you choose to observe the number of same-sex and mixed-sex study groups in your library, you probably do not need to announce your presence and obtain anyone’s permission. If you study the content of the self-descriptions that people write for an online dating service, do you need to contact each person to include their information in your study? When planning research, it is important to make sure that you do have good reasons not to obtain informed consent.
In research, deception occurs when there is active misrepresentation of information about the nature of a study. The Milgram experiment illustrates two types of deception. First, as noted earlier, participants were deceived about the purpose of the study. Participants in the Milgram experiment agreed to take part in a study of memory and learning, but they actually took part in a study on obedience. Who could imagine that a memory and learning experiment (that title does sound tame, after all) would involve delivering high-intensity, painful electric shocks to another person? Participants in the Milgram experiment did not know what they were letting themselves in for.
The Milgram study was conducted before informed consent was routine; however, you can imagine that Milgram’s consent form would inaccurately have participants agree to be in a memory study. They would also be told that they are free to withdraw from the study at any time. Is it possible that the informed consent procedure would affect the outcome of the study? Knowledge that the research is designed to study obedience would likely alter the behavior of the participants. Few of us like to think of ourselves as obedient, and we would probably go out of our way to prove that we are not. Research indicates that providing informed consent may in fact bias participants’ responses, at least in some research areas. For example, research on stressors such as noise or crowding has shown that a feeling of “control” over a stressor reduces its negative impact. If you know that you can terminate a loud, obnoxious noise, the noise produces less stress than when the noise is uncontrollable. Studies by Gardner (1978) and Dill, Gilden, Hill, and Hanslka (1982) have demonstrated Page 55that informed consent procedures do increase perceptions of control in stress experiments and therefore can affect the conclusions drawn from the research.
It is also possible that the informed consent procedure may bias the sample. In the Milgram experiment, if participants had prior knowledge that they would be asked to give severe shocks to the other person, some might have declined to be in the experiment. Therefore, we might limit our ability to generalize the results only to those “types” who agreed to participate. If this were true, anyone could say that the obedient behavior seen in the Milgram experiment occurred simply because the people who agreed to participate were sadists in the first place!
Second, the Milgram study also illustrates a type of deception in which participants become part of a series of events staged for the purposes of the study. A confederate of the experimenter played the part of another participant in the study; Milgram created a reality for the participant in which obedience to authority could be observed. Such deception has been most common in social psychology research; it is much less frequent in areas of experimental psychology such as human perception, learning, memory, and motor performance. Even in these areas, researchers may use a cover story to make the experiment seem plausible and involving (e.g., telling participants that they are reading actual newspaper stories for a study on readability when the true purpose is to examine memory errors or organizational schemes).
The problem of deception is not limited to laboratory research. Procedures in which observers conceal their purposes, presence, or identity are also deceptive. For example, Humphreys (1970) studied the sexual behavior of men who frequented public restrooms (called tearooms). Humphreys did not directly participate in sexual activities, but he served as a lookout who would warn the others of possible intruders. In addition to observing the activities in the tearoom, Humphreys wrote down license plate numbers of tearoom visitors. Later, he obtained the addresses of the men, disguised himself, and visited their homes to interview them. Humphreys’ procedure is certainly one way of finding out about anonymous sex in public places, but it employs considerable deception.
Is Deception a Major Ethical Problem in Psychological Research?
Many psychologists believe that the problem of deception has been exaggerated (Bröder, 1998; Kimmel, 1998; Korn, 1998; Smith & Richardson, 1985). Bröder argues that the extreme examples of elaborate deception cited by these critics are rare.
In the decades since the Milgram experiments, some researchers have attempted to assess the use of deception to see if elaborate deception has indeed become less common. Because most of the concern over this type of deception arises in social psychological research, attempts to address this issue have focused on social psychology. Gross and Fleming (1982) reviewed 691 social psychological studies published in the 1960s and 1970s. Although most research in the 1970s still used deception, the deception primarily involved false cover stories.
Page 56Has the trend away from deception continued? Sieber, Iannuzzo, and Rodriguez (1995) examined the studies published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology in 1969, 1978, 1986, and 1992. The number of studies that used some form of deception decreased from 66% in 1969 to 47% in 1978 and to 32% in 1986 but increased again to 47% in 1992. The large drop in 1986 may be due to an increase that year in the number of studies on such topics as personality that require no deception to carry out. Also, informed consent was more likely to be explicitly described in 1992 than in previous years, and debriefing was more likely to be mentioned in the years after 1969. However, false cover stories are still frequently used. Korn (1997) has also concluded that use of deception is decreasing in social psychology.
There are three primary reasons for a decrease in the type of elaborate deception seen in the Milgram study. First, more researchers have become interested in cognitive variables rather than emotions and so use methods that are similar to those used by researchers in memory and cognitive psychology. Second, the general level of awareness of ethical issues as described in this chapter has led researchers to conduct studies in other ways. Third, ethics committees at universities and colleges now review proposed research more carefully, so elaborate deception is likely to be approved only when the research is important and there are no alternative procedures available (ethics review boards are described later in this chapter).
THE IMPORTANCE OF DEBRIEFING
Debriefing occurs after the completion of a study. It is an opportunity for the researcher to deal with issues of withholding information, deception, and potential harmful effects of participation. Debriefing is one way that researchers can follow the guidelines in the APA Ethics Code, particularly Principles B (Fidelity and Responsibility), C (Integrity), and E (Respect for People’s Rights and Dignity).
If participants were deceived in any way, the researcher needs to explain why the deception was necessary. If the research altered a participant’s physical or psychological state in some way—as in a study that produces stress—the researcher must make sure that the participant has calmed down and is comfortable about having participated. If a participant needs to receive additional information or to speak with someone else about the study, the researcher should provide access to these resources. The participants should leave the experiment without any ill feelings toward the field of psychology, and they may even leave with some new insight into their own behavior or personality.
Debriefing also provides an opportunity for the researcher to explain the purpose of the study and tell participants what kinds of results are expected and perhaps discuss the practical implications of the results. In some cases, researchers may contact participants later to inform them of the actual results of the study. Thus, debriefing has both an educational and an ethical purpose.
The Milgram study can also teach us something about the importance of debriefing. Milgram described a very thorough debriefing. However, an Page 57examination of original records and interviews with subjects by Perry (2013) reveals that often the debriefing was little more than seeing that Mr. Wallace was indeed not harmed. Many subjects were rushed from the lab; some did not even learn that no shocks were actually administered but only found that out when Milgram mailed a report of his research findings to the subjects 6 months after data collection was completed (and some never received the letter). Today we would consider Milgram’s less than thorough debriefing immediately following the experiment to be a real problem with his research procedure.
Despite all the problems of the stress of the procedure and the rather sloppy debriefing, most of the subjects in the Milgram studies were positive about their experience. The letter that Milgram sent with a detailed report of the study included a questionnaire to assess subjects’ reactions to the experiment; 92% of the subjects returned the questionnaire. The responses showed that 84% were glad that they had participated, and 74% said they had benefited from the experience. Only 1% said they were sorry they had participated (Blass, 2004). Other researchers who have conducted further work on the ethics of the Milgram study reached the same conclusion (Ring, Wallston, & Corey, 1970).
More generally, research on the effectiveness of debriefing indicates that debriefing is an effective way of dealing with deception and other ethical issues that arise in research investigations (Oczak, 2007; Smith, 1983; Smith & Richardson, 1983). There is some evidence that in at least some circumstances, the debriefing needs to be thorough to be effective. In a study on debriefing by McFarland, Cheam, and Buehler (2007), participants were given false feedback about their ability to accurately judge whether suicide notes were genuine. After making judgment, they were told that they had succeeded or failed at the task. The researchers then gave different types of debriefing. A minimal debriefing only mentioned that the feedback they received was not based on their performance at all. A more thorough debriefing also included information that the suicide notes were not real. Participants with the additional information had a more accurate assessment of their ability than did subjects receiving the minimal debriefing procedure.
INSTITUTIONAL REVIEW BOARDS
While the Belmont Report provided an outline for issues of research ethics and the APA Ethics Code provides guidelines as well, the actual rules and regulations for the protection of human research participants were issued by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). Under these regulations (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 2001), every institution that receives federal funds must have an Institutional Review Board (IRB) that is responsible for the review of research conducted within the institution. IRBs are local review agencies composed of at least five individuals; at least one member of the IRB must be from outside the institution. Every college and university in the United States that receives federal funding has an IRB; in addition, most psychology departments have their own research Page 58review committee (Chastain & Landrum, 1999). All research conducted by faculty, students, and staff associated with the institution is reviewed in some way by the IRB. This includes research that may be conducted at another location such as a school, community agency, hospital, or via the Internet.
The federal regulations for IRB oversight of research continue to evolve. For example, all researchers must now complete specified educational requirements. Most colleges and universities require students and faculty to complete one or more online tutorials on research ethics to meet these requirements.
The HHS regulations also categorized research according to the amount of risk involved in the research. This concept of risk was later incorporated into the Ethics Code of the American Psychological Association.
Research in which there is no risk is exempt from review. Thus, anonymous questionnaires, surveys, and educational tests are all considered exempt research, as is naturalistic observation in public places when there is no threat to anonymity. Archival research in which the data being studied are publicly available or the participants cannot be identified is exempt as well. This type of research requires no informed consent. However, researchers cannot decide by themselves that research is exempt; instead, the IRB at the institution formulates a procedure to allow a researcher to apply for exempt status.
Minimal Risk Research
A second type of research activity is called minimal risk, which means that the risks of harm to participants are no greater than risks encountered in daily life or in routine physical or psychological tests. When minimal risk research is being conducted, elaborate safeguards are less of a concern, and approval by the IRB is routine. Some of the research activities considered minimal risk are (1) recording routine physiological data from adult participants (e.g., weighing, tests of sensory acuity, electrocardiography, electroencephalography, diagnostic echography, and voice recordings)—note that this would not include recordings that might involve invasion of privacy; (2) moderate exercise by healthy volunteers; and (3) research on individual or group behavior or characteristics of individuals—such as studies of perception, cognition, game theory, or test development—in which the researcher does not manipulate participants’ behavior and the research will not involve stress to participants.
Greater Than Minimal Risk Research
Any research procedure that places participants at greater than minimal risk is subject to thorough review by the IRB. Complete informed consent and other safeguards may be required before approval is granted.
Researchers planning to conduct an investigation are required to submit an application to the IRB. The application requires description of risks and benefits, procedures for minimizing risk, the exact wording of the informed consent form, how participants will be debriefed, and procedures for maintaining confidentiality. Even after a project is approved, there is continuing review. If it is a long-term project, it will be reviewed at least once each year. If there are any changes in procedures, researchers are required to obtain approval from the IRB. The three risk categories are summarized in Table 3.1.
TABLE 3.1 Assessment of risk
RESEARCH WITH NONHUMAN ANIMAL SUBJECTS
Although much of this chapter has been concerned with the ethics of research with humans, you are no doubt well aware that psychologists sometimes conduct research with animals (Akins, Panicker, & Cunningham, 2005). Animals are used in behavioral research for a variety of reasons. Researchers can carefully control the environmental conditions of the animals, study the same animals over a long period, and monitor their behavior 24 hours a day if necessary. Animals are also used to test the effects of drugs and to study physiological and genetic mechanisms underlying behavior.
Page 60About 7% of the articles in Psychological Abstracts (now PsycINFO) in 1979 described studies involving nonhuman animals (Gallup & Suarez, 1985), and data indicate that the amount of research done with animals has been steadily declining (Thomas & Blackman, 1992). Most commonly, psychologists work with rats and mice and, to a lesser extent, birds (usually pigeons); according to surveys of animal research in psychology journals, over 95% of the animals used in research are rats, mice, and birds (see Gallup & Suarez, 1985; Viney, King, & Berndt, 1990). Some of the decline in animal research is attributed to increased interest in conducting cognitive research with human participants (Viney, et al., 1990). This interest in cognition is now extending to research with dogs. Canine cognition labs have been growing at universities in the United States, Canada, and around the world (e.g., Yale, Harvard, Duke, Barnard, University of Florida, University of Western Ontario; see, for example, dogcognition.com). Typically the subjects are family pets that are brought to the lab by their owners.
In recent years, groups opposed to animal research in medicine, psychology, biology, and other sciences have become more vocal and active. Animal rights groups have staged protests at conventions of the American Psychological Association, animal research laboratories in numerous cities have been vandalized, and researchers have received threats of physical harm.
Scientists argue that animal research benefits humans and point to many discoveries that would not have been possible without animal research (Carroll & Overmier, 2001; Miller, 1985). Also, animal rights groups often exaggerate the amount of research that involves any pain or suffering whatsoever (Coile & Miller, 1984).
Plous (1996a, 1996b) conducted a national survey of attitudes toward the use of animals in research and education among psychologists and psychology majors. The attitudes of both psychologists and psychology students were quite similar. In general, there is support for animal research: 72% of the students support such research, 18% oppose it, and 10% are unsure (the psychologists “strongly” support animal research more than the students, however). In addition, 68% believe that animal research is necessary for progress in psychology. Still, there is some ambivalence and uncertainty about the use of animals: When asked whether animals in psychological research are treated humanely, 12% of the students said “no” and 44% were “unsure.” In addition, research involving rats or pigeons was viewed more positively than research with dogs or primates unless the research is strictly observational. Plous concluded that animal research in psychology will continue to be important for the field but will likely continue to decline as a proportion of the total amount of research conducted.
Animal research is indeed very important and will continue to be necessary to study many types of research. It is crucial to recognize that strict laws and ethical guidelines govern both research with animals and teaching procedures in which animals are used. Such regulations deal with the need for proper housing, feeding, cleanliness, and health care. They specify that the research must avoid any cruelty in the form of unnecessary pain to the animal. In addition, institutions in which animal research is carried out must have an Institutional Animal Care and Page 61Use Committee (IACUC) composed of at least one scientist, one veterinarian, and a community member. The IACUC is charged with reviewing animal research procedures and ensuring that all regulations are adhered to (see Holden, 1987).
The APA Ethics Code (see Appendix B) addresses the ethical responsibilities of researchers when studying nonhuman animals. APA has also developed a more detailed Guidelines for Ethical Conduct in the Care and Use of Nonhuman Animals (http://www.apa.org/science/leadership/care/guidelines.aspx). Clearly, psychologists are concerned about the welfare of animals used in research. Nonetheless, this issue likely will continue to be controversial.
BEING AN ETHICAL RESEARCHER: THE ISSUE OF MISREPRESENTATION
Principle C of the APA Ethics Code focuses on integrity. The ethical researcher acts with integrity and in so doing does not engage in misrepresentation. Specifically, we will explore two specific types of misrepresentation: fraud and plagiarism.
The fabrication of data is fraud. We must be able to believe the reported results of research; otherwise, the entire foundation of the scientific method as a means of knowledge is threatened. In fact, although fraud may occur in many fields, it probably is most serious in two areas: science and journalism. This is because science and journalism are both fields in which written reports are assumed to be accurate descriptions of actual events. There are no independent accounting agencies to check on the activities of scientists and journalists.
Instances of fraud in the field of psychology are considered to be very serious (cf. Hostetler, 1987; Riordan & Marlin, 1987), but fortunately, they are very rare (Murray, 2002). Perhaps the most famous case is that of Sir Cyril Burt, who reported that the IQ scores of identical twins reared apart were highly similar. The data were used to support the argument that genetic influences on IQ are extremely important. However, Kamin (1974) noted some irregularities in Burt’s data. A number of correlations for different sets of twins were exactly the same to the third decimal place, virtually a mathematical impossibility. This observation led to the discovery that some of Burt’s presumed co-workers had not in fact worked with him or had simply been fabricated. Ironically, though, Burt’s “data” were close to what has been reported by other investigators who have studied the IQ scores of twins.
In most cases, fraud is detected when other scientists cannot replicate the results of a study. Suspicions of fabrication of research data by social psychologist Karen Ruggiero arose when other researchers had difficulty replicating her published findings. The researcher subsequently resigned from her academic position and retracted her research findings (Murray, 2002). Sometimes fraud is detected by a colleague or by students who worked with the researcher. For example, Stephen Page 62Breuning was guilty of faking data showing that stimulants could be used to reduce hyperactive and aggressive behavior in children (Byrne, 1988). In this case, another researcher who had worked closely with Breuning had suspicions about the data; he then informed the federal agency that had funded the research.
A recent case of extensive fraud that went undetected for years involves a social psychologist at Tilburg University in the Netherlands (Verfaellie & McGwin, 2011). Diederik Stapel not only created data that changed the outcome of studies that were conducted, he also reported results of studies that were never conducted at all. His studies were published in prestigious journals and often reported in popular news outlets because his research reported intriguing findings (e.g., being in a messy, disorderly environment results in more stereotypical and discriminatory thoughts). Students eventually reported their suspicions to the university administration, but the fact that Stapel’s misconduct continued for so long is certainly troublesome. According to a committee that investigated Stapel, one cause was the fact the professor was powerful, prestigious, and charismatic. He would work closely with students to design studies but then collect the data himself. He would invite a colleague to take his existing data set to analyze and write a report. These are highly unusual practices but his students and colleagues did not question him.
Fraud is not a major problem in science in part because researchers know that others will read their reports and conduct further studies, including replications. They know that their reputations and careers will be seriously damaged if other scientists conclude that the results are fraudulent. In addition, the likelihood of detection of fraud has increased in recent years as data accessibility has become more open: Regulations of most funding agencies require researchers to make their data accessible to other scientists.
Why, then, do researchers sometimes commit fraud? For one thing, scientists occasionally find themselves in jobs with extreme pressure to produce impressive results. This is not a sufficient explanation, of course, because many researchers maintain high ethical standards under such pressure. Another reason is that researchers who feel a need to produce fraudulent data have an exaggerated fear of failure, as well as a great need for success and the admiration that comes with it. Every report of scientific misconduct includes a discussion of motivations such as these.
One final point: Allegations of fraud should not be made lightly. If you disagree with someone’s results on philosophical, political, religious, or other grounds, it does not mean that they are fraudulent. Even if you cannot replicate the results, the reason may lie in aspects of the methodology of the study rather than deliberate fraud. However, the fact that fraud could be a possible explanation of results stresses the importance of careful record keeping and documentation of the procedures and results.
Plagiarism refers to misrepresenting another’s work as your own. Writers must give proper citation of sources. Plagiarism can take the form of submitting an entire paper written by someone else; it can also mean including a paragraph or Page 63even a sentence that is copied without using quotation marks and a reference to the source of the quotation. Plagiarism also occurs when you present another person’s ideas as your own rather than properly acknowledging the source of the ideas. Thus, even if you paraphrase the actual words used by a source, it is plagiarism if the source is not cited.
Although plagiarism is certainly not a new problem, access to Internet resources and the ease of copying material from the Internet may be increasing its prevalence. In fact, Szabo and Underwood (2004) report that more than 50% of a sample of British university students believe that using Internet resources for academically dishonest activities is acceptable. It is little wonder that many schools are turning to computer-based mechanisms of detecting plagiarism.
It is useful to further describe plagiarism as being “word for word” or “paraphrased.” Word-for-word plagiarism is when a writer copies a section of another person’s work word for word without providing quotation marks indicating that the segment was written by somebody else, nor a citation indicating the source of the information. As an example, consider the following paragraph from Burger (2009):
“Milgram’s obedience studies have maintained a place in psychology classes and textbooks largely because of their implications for understanding the worst of human behaviors, such as atrocities, massacres, and genocide.” (Burger, 2009, p.10).
Word-for-word plagiarism would be if a writer wrote the following in his or her work without attributing it to Burger (2009):
Since they were conducted in the 1960s, Milgram’s obedience studies have maintained a place in psychology classes and textbooks largely because of their implications for understanding the worst of human behaviors, including atrocities, massacres, and genocide.
In that case, plagiarized text is highlighted. Note that adding a few words, or changing a few words, does not change the fact that much of the text is taken from another source, without attribution.
Being an ethical writer would mean using quotation marks around sentences that were directly taken from the original source and including a citation. For instance:
Burger (2009) concluded that since they were conducted in the 1960s “Milgram’s obedience studies have maintained a place in psychology classes and textbooks largely because of their implications for understanding the worst of human behaviors, such as atrocities, massacres, and genocide.” (p. 10).
Paraphrasing is when a writer expresses the meaning of a passage of text without using the actual words of the text. So, in paraphrasing plagiarism the words are not directly copied without attribution, but the ideas are copied without attribution. Page 64Note that there is not a “number or percentage of words” that moves writing from plagiarism to not being plagiarism, but rather it is the underlying idea.
An example of paraphrasing plagiarism is more difficult. Let us use the same passage:
“Milgram’s obedience studies have maintained a place in psychology classes and textbooks largely because of their implications for understanding the worst of human behaviors, such as atrocities, massacres, and genocide.” (Burger, 2009, p. 10).
One example of paraphrasing plagiarism would be:
Humans are capable of many vile and reprehensible acts. The reality is that Milgram’s studies have remained important to psychology because they seem to explain these behaviors.
Here the basic idea presented is directly related to the passage in Burger (2009). In this case, ethical writing may be:
Humans are capable of many vile and reprehensible acts. The reality is that Milgram’s studies have remained important to psychology because they seem to explain these behaviors (Burger, 2009).
Figure 3.2 provides a useful guide in how to understanding plagiarism in your own writing using two key questions: Did I write the words? And did I think of the idea?
Guide for avoiding plagiarism in writing
Page 65Plagiarism is wrong and can lead to many severe consequences, including academic sanctions such as a failing grade or expulsion from the school. Because plagiarism is often a violation of copyright law, it can be prosecuted as a criminal offense as well. Finally, it is interesting to note that some students believe that citing sources weakens their paper—that they are not being sufficiently original. In fact, Harris (2002) notes that student papers are actually strengthened when sources are used and properly cited.
CONCLUSION: RISKS AND BENEFITS REVISITED
You are now familiar with the ethical issues that confront researchers who study human and animal behavior. When you make decisions about research ethics, you need to consider the many factors associated with risk to the participants. Are there risks of psychological harm or loss of confidentiality? Who are the research participants? What types of deception, if any, are used in the procedure? How will informed consent be obtained? What debriefing procedures are being used? You also need to weigh the direct benefits of the research to the participants, as well as the scientific importance of the research and the educational benefits to the students who may be conducting the research for a class or degree requirement (see Figure 3.3).
These are not easy decisions. Consider a study in which a confederate posing as another subject insults the participant (Vasquez, Pederson, Bushman, Kelley, Demeestere, & Miller, 2013). The subject wrote an essay expressing attitudes on a controversial topic; subsequently, the subject heard the confederate evaluate the essay as unclear, unconvincing, and “one of the worst things I have read in a long time.” The subject could then behave aggressively in choosing the amount of hot sauce that the other person would have to consume in another part of the experiment. The insult did lead to choosing more hot sauce, particularly if the subject was given an opportunity to ruminate about it rather than being distracted by other tasks. Instances of aggression following perceived insults are common so you can argue that this is an important topic. Do you believe that the potential benefits of the study to society and science outweigh the risks involved in the procedure?
Obviously, an IRB reviewing this study concluded that the researchers had sufficiently minimized risks to the participants such that the benefits outweighed the costs. If you ultimately decide that the costs outweigh the benefits, you must conclude that the study cannot be conducted in its current form. You may suggest alternative procedures that could make it acceptable. If the benefits outweigh the costs, you will likely decide that the research should be carried out. Your calculation might differ from another person’s calculation, which is precisely why having ethics review boards is such a good idea. An appropriate review of research proposals makes it highly unlikely that unethical research will be approved.
Analysis of risks and benefits
Ethical guidelines and regulations evolve over time. The APA Ethics Code and federal, state, and local regulations may be revised periodically. Researchers need to always be aware of the most current policies and procedures. In the following chapters, we will discuss many specific procedures for studying behavior. As you read about these procedures and apply them to research you may be interested in, remember that ethical considerations are always paramount.
In the time when Stanley Milgram was conceptualizing his obedience experiments there were no institutional review boards. If there had been, it might have been a difficult study to have approved. Participants were not informed of the purpose of the study (indeed, they were deceived into thinking that it was a study of learning), and they were also deceived into thinking that they were harming another person. The struggle is, of course, that if participants had known the true nature of the study, or that they were not really delivering electric shocks, the results would not have been as meaningful.
The Milgram study was partially replicated by Berger in 2009. That study is included as the Illustrative Article for this chapter.
ILLUSTRATIVE ARTICLE: REPLICATION OF MILGRAM
Burger (2009) conducted a partial replication of the classic Stanley Milgram obedience studies.
First, acquire and read the article:
Burger, J. M. (2009). Replicating Milgram: Would people still obey today? American Psychologist, 64(1), 1–11. doi:10.1037/a0010932
Then, after reading the article, consider the following:
1. Conduct an informal risk-benefit analysis. What are the risks and benefits inherent in this study as described? Do you think that the study is ethically justifiable given your analysis? Why or why not?
2. Do you think that the study is ethically justifiable given your analysis? Why or why not?
3. How did Burger screen participants in the study? What was the purpose of the screening procedure?
4. Burger paid participants $50 for two 45-minute sessions. Could this be considered coercive? Why or why not?
5. Describe the risks to research participants in Burger’s study.
6. Burger uses deception in this study. Is it acceptable? Do you believe that the debriefing session described in the report adequately addresses the issues of deception?
APA Ethics Code (p. 47)
Autonomy (Belmont Report) (p. 46)
Belmont Report (p. 46)
Beneficence (Belmont Report) (p. 47)
Confidentiality (p. 50)
Debriefing (p. 56)
Deception (p. 54)
Exempt research (p. 58)
Fidelity and Responsibility (p. 47)
Fraud (p. 61)
IACUC (p. 61)
Informed consent (p. 51)
Institutional Review Board (IRB) (p. 57)
Integrity (p. 48)
Justice (Belmont Report) (p. 48)
Minimal risk research (p. 58)
Paraphrasing plagiarism (p. 63)
Plagiarism (p. 62)
Respect for person (p. 48)
Risk (p. 49)
Risk-benefit analysis (p. 49)
Word-for-word plagiarism (p. 63)
1. Discuss the major ethical issues in behavioral research including risks, benefits, deception, debriefing, informed consent, and justice. How can researchers weigh the need to conduct research against the need for ethical procedures?
2. Why is informed consent an ethical principle? What are the potential problems with obtaining fully informed consent?
3. What alternatives to deception are described in the text?
4. Summarize the principles concerning research with human participants in the APA Ethics Code.
5. What is the difference between “no risk” and “minimal risk” research activities?
6. What is an Institutional Review Board?
7. Summarize the ethical procedures for research with animals.
8. What constitutes fraud, what are some reasons for its occurrence, and why does it not occur more frequently?
9. Describe how you would proceed to identify plagiarism in a writing assignment.
1. Find your college’s code of student conduct online and review the section on plagiarism. How would you improve this section? What would you tell your professors to do to help students avoid plagiarism?
2. Indiana University created an excellent online resource called “How to Recognize Plagiarism” (you can find it here: https://www.indiana.edu/∼istd/plagiarism_test.html). Complete the test!
3. Consider the following experiment, similar to one that was conducted by Smith, Lingle, and Brock (1978). Each participant interacted for an hour with another person who was actually an accomplice. After this interaction, both persons agreed to return 1 week later for another session with each other. When the real participants returned, they were informed that the person they had met the week before had died. The researchers then measured reactions to the death of the person.
a. Discuss the ethical issues raised by the experiment.
b. Would the experiment violate the guidelines articulated in APA Ethical Standard 8 dealing with research with human participants? In what ways?
c. What alternative methods for studying this problem (reactions to death) might you suggest?
d. Would your reactions to this study be different if the participants had played with an infant and then later been told that the infant had died?Page 69
4. In a procedure described in this chapter, participants are given false feedback about an unfavorable personality trait or a low ability level. What are the ethical issues raised by this procedure? Compare your reactions to that procedure with your reactions to an analogous one in which people are given false feedback that they possess a very favorable personality trait or a very high ability level.
5. A social psychologist conducts a field experiment at a local bar that is popular with college students. Interested in observing flirting techniques, the investigator instructs male and female confederates to smile and make eye contact with others at the pub for varying amounts of time (e.g., 2 seconds, 5 seconds, etc.) and varying numbers of times (e.g., once, twice, etc.). The investigator observes the responses of those receiving the gaze. What ethical considerations, if any, do you perceive in this field experiment? Is there any deception involved?
6. Should people who are observed in field experiments be debriefed? Write a paragraph supporting the proposition and another paragraph supporting the con position.
7. Dr. Alucard conducted a study to examine various aspects of the sexual behaviors of college students. The students filled out a questionnaire in a classroom on the campus; about 50 students were tested at a time. The questionnaire asked about prior experience with various sexual practices. If a student had experience, a number of other detailed questions were asked. However, if the student did not have any prior experience, he or she skipped the detailed questions and simply went on to answer another general question about a sexual experience. What ethical issues arise when conducting research such as this? Do you detect any specific problems that might arise because of the “skip” procedure used in this study?
8. Read the following research scenarios and assess the risk to participants by placing a check mark in the appropriate box (answers on next page).
9. Review this slide show that describes the Stanford Prison Experiment: http://www.prisonexp.org. Then address questions 12 and 13 from the Discussion Questions on the website:
· Was it ethical to do this study? Was it right to trade the suffering experienced by participants for the knowledge gained by the research? (The Page 71experimenters did not take this issue lightly, although the Slide Show may sound somewhat matter-of-fact about the events and experiences that occurred.) (Source: http://www.prisonexp.org/discussion.htm)
· How do the ethical dilemmas in this research compare with the ethical issues raised by Stanley Milgram’s obedience experiments? Would it be better if these studies had never been done? (Source: http://www.prisonexp.org/discussion.htm)
a. Greater than minimal risk
b. Minimal risk
c. No risk
d. Minimal risk