Paraphrased Paper Sample | Ethics in Research

Ethics in Research

This paper aims to explore the concept of attitudes in a social setting, including explaining what attitude means, demonstrating how individuals develop attitudes, defining the relationship between attitude and behavior, as well as examining how attitudes are influenced by the social context.

Milgram’s Studies

A social psychologist known as Stanley Milgram became so curious about the events that happened during World War II. He conducted various experiments regarding people’s obedience to the authorities (Griggs, 2017). During World War II, whenever the German soldiers were questioned as to why they killed several people, they only gave a simple answer that they were following orders from the authority. Baumeister and Bushman (2014) assert that this kind of answer is what made Milgram conduct a study regarding obedience to the authority. Milgram’s study was aimed at establishing whether the Americans obey orders that are likely to harm or even kill another human being (Baumeister & Bushman, 2014). The people who were engaged in this study as participants were initially told that they will participate in a learning exercise. In this exercise, they would play a role of either the learner or the teacher. Nevertheless, the participant would often be selected for the role of the teacher and he/she was not selected randomly. Griggs (2017) asserts that, as a teacher, the participant had the role to shock the learner electrically as a form of punishment whenever he/she made a mistake.

According to Griggs (2017), the participant was given a shock delivery machine with a row of labels and switches that were rated from mild-shock to severe-shock. Every time the learner committed a mistake, the participant was ordered to increase the switch by one more shock at a time, beginning from the rank of mild-shock. The participant was in the room together with the experimenter, who gave directions to the participant to deliver a shock when the leaner made a mistake. During this experiment, the participant was instructed by the experimenter to keep delivering shocks every time a mistake was made as well as to obey all the orders assigned (Griggs, 2017).

The participant was told by the experimenter that regardless of how much the shocks were painful, they were never dangerous to the learner (Baumeister & Bushman, 2014). When the shock was being administered, the learner was given a script that would be challenging for the participant to progress delivering the shock. This script encompassed areas where the learner was supposed to scream with pain, as well as beg the participant to stop delivering the shock (Baumeister & Bushman, 2014). Finally, the learner was instructed to stop responding so that the participant would think the learners have either died or passed out (Baumeister & Bushman, 2014).

According to Griggs (2017), over 60% of the participants in this study delivered the maximum available shock to the learner regardless of them screaming out of pain or begging the participant to stop. Participants exhibited various distress signs, such as trembling, sweating, stuttering, as well as having fits of uneasy laughter that appeared to be out of control.

Controversy with Milgram’s Studies

According to Griggs (2017), a number of studies argue that the studies conducted by Milgram went beyond the limits of ethics, since participants were deceived to believe that they were delivering shocks to the learners without being aware that learners were also part of the experiment. There were other controversies in Milgram’s studies, such as the health of the participants was at risk and the participant lacked the chance to make his/her own decision of withdrawal.

In the Milgram’s studies, the experimenter instructed the participants to continue delivering the shock. Based on the experiment, the participant had no alternative other than to continue as instructed by the experimenter (Griggs, 2017). Following the APA codes of ethics, a participant involved in research is entitled to the right to withdraw any time and should sign a consent form that explains this right, among many more rights (Sinclair, 2017). Moreover, the participants were unprotected as far as their health was concerned and this was a violation of the rights. Sinclair (2017) asserts that the participants in this research were exposed to stressful moments that most likely harmed them psychologically.

Zimbardo Stanford Prison Experiment

Philip Zimbardo, who was a psychologist as well as a professor at Stanford University, conducted this study in 1971. The study was aimed to identify how various social roles affect human behavior (Bartels et al., 2016). Also, the study was intended to comprehend why and how people would conform to societal roles as well as human response. According to Bartels et al. (2016), Philip Zimbardo conducted this experiment at Stanford University’s psychology department basement.

This basement was converted into a prison and randomly selected participants took roles of the security guard and the prisoner. According to Bartels et al. (2016), the experiment was to be conducted in a manner that the guards watch over the prisoners. Policies, procedures, as well as rules, were simulated to that of a real prison in order to ensure authenticity and solitary confinement.

The participants to play the role of a security guard were identified. Then, without warning, arrests were made on those who were to be prisoners and they were taken to the nearby police station. Their fingerprints were taken, they were photographed, and then booked into cells (Bartels et al., 2016). Later, the prisoners were blindfolded and taken to Stanford University at the psychology department’s basement that had been transformed into a prison basement. Once they arrived there, they were asked to remove their clothes and give up their personal belongings. Their possessions were recorded and then they were given prison clothes as well as bedding. Within a very short period, the guards demonstrated their sadistic and brutal behavior toward the prisoners, even though they had known that they were not real prison guards, but rather participants (Bartels et al., 2016).

Controversy with Zimbardo Stanford Experiment

A lot of information regarding how easily individuals obey their social roles was provided in this study. Some of these social roles to which the people conform are stereotypical roles like that of the prison guard presented in this study. Nevertheless, this information came at the expense of the participants’ mental and physical abuse, particularly the prisoners. According to Sinclair (2017), the experiment was originally supposed to last for 14 days, but was stopped after 6 days because of the prisoners’ safety, especially concerning the abuse from the guards.

There was a lot of controversy with this experiment since it was regarded as another unethical experiment. In this study, the participants were never protected from harm. Also, the participants were never given clear information regarding this experiment. As a result of this experiment, the participants were in distress. Moreover, it caused both psychological stress and humiliation (Bartels et al., 2016). Zimbardo also never had any prior knowledge about prisons as well as how they are operated. If such an experiment were to be performed today, it would violate the standard ethics policy on the boundaries and competence of the experimenter, based on the APA standards (Sinclair, 2017).

Benefits of the Zimbardo Stanford Experiment and Milgram’s Studies

Both studies that were conducted by the American psychologists offer extensive knowledge regarding social psychology as well as human behavior as far as obedience to authority is concerned. Many people may believe that that it is not possible for people to behave in an evil, cruel, and sadistic behavior because they are instructed by the authority to do so. The two studies demonstrate that people obey the authority and become sadistic to their colleagues. For instance, in Milgram’s studies, some individuals committed despicable behavior following the authority’s instructions. They are also seen to obey the authorities and do whatever they are instructed to do, regardless of the suffering exhibited from the other participants (Brannigan, 2014). The experiment conducted by Zimbardo gave an insight into how people could easily become ruthless when they are given excess power (Bartels et al., 2016). Both studies contributed vast information regarding how human behavior is easily changed by circumstances, surrounding individuals or the environment.

The APA Ethical Principles and Code of Ethics

According to Baumeister and Bushman (2014), the APA Ethical principles and code of ethics are in place in order to protect experiments’ participants, protect the reputation of the people who conduct experiments together with that of the psychologists, and moreso protect the study of psychology. Although both Zimbardo and Milgram’s experiments were very unethical and controversial, there are other various controversial experiments that have been conducted, including the popular conditioning experiment that is mostly referred to as the Little Albert, as well as the unnecessary sex change, which is popularly referred to as David Reimer Experiment (Brannigan, 2014). The two studies made the participants to be affected with permanent severe effects, such as suffering, depression, hardship, as well as suicide.

While performing studies and experiments in the area of psychology, the research goes through a thorough process as well as extensive reviews from the institutional review board, which was implemented through the well-known National Research Act, 1974, prior to conducting the study (Sinclair, 2017). According to Sinclair (2017), the process also involves the justifications and proposals of any possible psychological or physical harm. Based on the APA principles of ethics, the procedures and policies stipulate that all the demand characteristics should be included as the study comes to an end to ensure there is debriefing and that the experiment’s potential gains outweigh the potential psychological or physical harm it is likely to cause to the participants (Baumeister & Bushman, 2014).

Controversial Research-Against It or For It?

Various reviews have been conducted for years concerning a number of controversial experiments. Most of these psychology reviews do not correspond to the experimental techniques that were performed by both Zimbardo and Milgram. Some of them agreed that the experiments were beneficial, since some of the findings were implemented. Bartels et al. (2016) asserts that the experiment conducted by Zimbardo at the Stanford prison offered more insight regarding the impact the environment has on the behavior of an individual. Zimbardo asserted that his study was more relevant to various life aspects, which are not limited to prison life. According to Bartels et al. (2016), in his experiment, Zimbardo believes that he gives an explanation concerning power difference among people, as well as how easier a person can reveal his/her dark and cruel side of life.

The study conducted by Milgram caused deception for the participants. According to Griggs (2017), Milgram claimed that the study had to apply illusion on the participants in order to exhibit various difficult truths of the experiment. In general, participants who were involved in Milgram’s studies never suffered long-term psychological or physical harm. Also, once the experiment was over, these participants were debriefed. However, over 80 percent of the experiment’s participants asserted that they were glad to have been part of the experiment and they were more than willing to participate again (Griggs, 2017).


Both experiments provided great insights, however at the expense of the participants’ psychological and physical harm, particularly the ones who were involved in Zimbardo’s Stanford Prison Experiment. Engaging people in a setting that is known to cause distress, psychological or physical abuse, as well as prolonged psychological damage, is unforgivable irrespective of the result of the experiments. Although the two experiments caused deception, the studies conducted by Milgram caused short-term effects on participants. Once the experiments were conducted, the participants were debriefed. Also, they ensured that learner felt safe as well as provides crucial information concerning authority and obedience.