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Psychology and the Role of Ethics Essay

Pages:6 (1774 words)



Topic:Ethical Standards

Document Type:Essay



Several ethical issues, dilemmas, and problems apply to various aspects of psychology, including educational and scientific practices. The expansive body of literature on ethical issues shows that ethical issues are normally multifaceted and usually pose societal, interpersonal, professional, emotional, and intellectual challenges to psychologists. Furthermore, every psychologist can act unethically and harm their clients. In brief, ethics is important in the field of psychology, for it guides psychologists and various aspects of the field they are married to.

Ethics, as a field, emerged from the inquiries about moral life by ancient Greek philosophers. The term ethics is now described as a set of principles or a system that can significantly alter previous considerations regarding choices and actions. Philosophers argue that ethics is a sub-discipline of philosophy that deals with the dynamics of what is right and what is wrong when making decisions. Concerning research, ethics is an evolving field; some of the research practices that were tolerated and supported decades ago are no longer considered appropriate nowadays (Walsh, 2015). Research, as with every human activity, is guided by the social, community, and individual values. Research ethics is a field that revolves around research guidelines, protection of subjects' dignity, and the documentation of the research designs, other information, and results (Walsh, 2015). This paper examines the important role of ethics in psychology, especially on research.

Role of Ethics in the Use of Others' Research

It is important to follow ethical norms, particularly in research, for several reasons. First, ethical norms support the objectives of the research, which include truth, knowledge, and prevention of error. For instance, ethical standards in research prohibit the misrepresentation, falsification, or fabrication of research data and, therefore, promote truth and reduce error. Second, ethical standards promote values such as fairness, mutual respect, accountability, and trust, which enable and promote coordination and cooperation among researchers and scholars and between different institutions. This is important because proper research almost always requires coordination and cooperation between different parties. For instance, ethical standards promote fairness and trust, which is important in studies that involve cooperation and coordination since without ethical standards and values such as fairness and trust, cooperation would be difficult; things such as data sharing would be difficult. Most researchers who contribute to studies also want credit for their work, and this has become the norm because ethical standards and values do not allow the stealing or use of other people's work without crediting them (Resnik, 2015).

Third, ethical standards are important in research because they make researchers more accountable. For example, the federal government and many institutions have research policies and ethical codes of conduct that researchers have to adhere to get the support they need from them, e.g., funding. If researchers violate the set ethical codes of conduct, e.g., they violate the rules that protect human subjects or use animals without necessary care; their funding can be cut. Fourth, ethical standards are important to encourage support from the public for research studies. Many people are supporting research studies and the use of funding to support them because they are aware that most researchers are guided by ethical standards and values (Simelane-Mnisi, 2018).

Finally, ethical standards are important in research because they encourage social and moral values, e.g., public safety, public health, compliance with regulations and the law, animal welfare, human rights, and social responsibility. Without such standards, studies that end up harming the public, subjects, animals, or the researchers themselves could be very common. For instance, there could be many cases of researchers fabricating or falsifying data during…

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…the APA, psychologists are only allowed, not to ask for consent, when federal laws or institutional regulations say so or when their studies are logically expected not to cause any harm, e.g., when they are conducting archival research, using anonymous questionnaires, or studying routine educational practices or classroom management techniques (Smith, 2003).

Understanding the History of Ethics in the Field of Psychology

In history, many cases of unethical medical and psychological research can be found. Such cases and some recent cases of unethical studies have underscored problems with human rights, dishonesty, coercion, consent, and the handling of vulnerable groups. The cases of unethical studies and their harmful or shameful consequences made it clear decades ago that there was a need for ethical codes and standards. This led to the development of ethical codes. Among the most prominent pioneer ethical codes was the 1947 Nuremberg Code. The code was informed by the revelations of the types of research Nazi Germany scientists were conducting on human subjects without their consent and approval, and with total disregard for human rights, dignity, and safety. This is the reason why one of the most important elements of the Nuremberg Code is to require researchers to obtain voluntary consent from human subjects (Hardicre, 2014).

Therefore, it is the unethical research studies in the past with disastrous consequences that led to the development of pioneer ethical standards and codes that are still in force today. Many more international and professional ethical standards have been developed since the 1947 Nuremberg Code, and they guide different types of research today. Without the codes and the consent given, probably many of the drugs, medicines, and treatments currently used could be nonexistent. Therefore, researchers and psychologists must continue observing ethical codes and standards to continue protecting human subjects and…

Sample Source(s) Used


Hardicre, J. (2014). An overview of research ethics and learning from the past. British Journal of Nursing, 23(9), 483-486.

Kjellström, S., Ross, S. N., & Fridlund, B. (2010). Research ethics in dissertations: ethical issues and complexity of reasoning. Journal of medical ethics, 36(7), 425-430.

Simelane-Mnisi, S. (2018). Role and importance of ethics in research.  Ensuring research integrity and the ethical management of data (pp. 1-13). IGI Global.

Smith, D. (2003). Five principles for research ethics. Monitor on Psychology, 34(1), 56.

Resnik, D. B. (2015). What is ethics in research & why is it important? Retrieved May 26, 2020, from

Walsh, R. T. (2015). Introduction to ethics in psychology: Historical and philosophical grounding. Journal of Theoretical and Philosophical Psychology, 35(2), 69.

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