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Participants are formally asked
to indicate their agreement to
They should be informed on the
purpose of the experiment and
their rights
If participants are still unaware
of what they are involved in, this
could affect their behavior and
therefore skew the results.
Overt Observation
Covert Observation
The researcher does not inform the
participants that they are being
observed. These are usually used with
groups that would be hostile with an
outside intrusion; for example, drug
users or street gangs. Usually the
researcher must also gain the trust of
the group but unlike over observations
they do not know they are being
observed, making it hard for the
researcher to take notes. This means
they must commit more details directly
to memory which could possibly be
The participants know that they are
being studied. This means that the
observer must gain the participants
When observing subjects, it is unethical to observe them without
their previous consent. This must always be considered in an
experiment in which data is collected through observation of the
Deception prevents participants from giving informed consent.
 If observing a group covertly, some deception must be used.
 Example:
Leon Festinger et al.'s When Prophecy Fails (1956) Study
- The researchers covertly joined a religious cult that believed the
world would end on December 21st, and when the catastrophes
begin, flying saucers would come to pick them up
- In order to gain access to the group they must have first deceived
them by not telling them they are researchers who aim to study
them. By modern research standards the mentioned study would not
be considered ethically valid.
 Costs should be weighed against benefits
When writing up
results, names should
not be collected. They
should be replaced
with numbers or
variables, or put into
groups indicated by
letters or numbers.
In some situations, it is
not appropriate to
observe people in a
public space, such as
two lovers on a bench.
When participants do not know they are being
observed it is impossible for them to withdraw
from a study.
Philip Zimbardo's Stanford Prison Experiment
a study of the psychological effects of
becoming a prisoner or prison guard
Twelve students were selected out of 75 to play
the prisoners and live in a mock prison in the
basement of the Stanford psychology building.
Another twelve of the same 75 were selected to
play the Guards. Roles were assigned randomly
to the 24 men.
leading the officers to display authoritarian
measures and ultimately to subject some of the
prisoners to torture. In turn, many of the
prisoners developed passive attitudes and
accepted physical abuse, and, at the request of
the guards, readily inflicted punishment on
other prisoners who attempted to stop it.
The experiment even affected Zimbardo
himself, who, in his capacity as Prison
Superintendent, lost sight of his role as
psychologist and permitted the abuse to
continue as though it were a real prison.
While this is one of the most
important ethical guidelines to
follow, it hardly ever a true
concern in most experiments
 Going back to the Stanford Prison
Experiment, it was said that the
experiment was supposed to last
for 2 weeks, but it was cancelled
after only 6 days.
-Through the corruption of power of
the guards physical and mental
harm came about the experiment
- Although the guards were not
malicious people, the role that
they played overcame them and
resulted in physical and mental
harm to the “prisoners”
Participants must be
informed of the true
aim of the study when
the experiment is
This is used to restore
the participant to the
state he/she was
before the experiment
It is unethical to let a
participant leave after
an experiment without
informing them of the