Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Psychological Experiments

During the 20th Century a number of psychologists (the behaviourists and cognitive psychologists) tried to introduce greater scientific thinking into the subject. Greater emphasis was placed on the collection of empirical evidence through detailed observation, researchers made more of an effort to remain objective, and attempts were made to control variables, reduce the observer effect and repeat experiments where possible. Psychology effectively moved towards the inductivism of the natural sciences (or rather the hypothetico-deductive model of Karl Popper, 1935).

A number of experiments based on this thinking later became notorious. Some investigators were less than honest with their research subjects (often in an effort to lessen the observer effect or reduce the effect of extraneous variables). In other cases the long-term psychological effects of the experiments on human or animal subjects were not considered. Sometimes ethics were abandoned because the researcher placed their own work and reputation above all other considerations.

I've reproduced a list of the 'top 10 unethical psychology experiments' from the website listverse.com (last accessed 16/4/12). Its an interesting list, but I would argue that not all of the experiments could really be called unethical. The Stanford Prison Experiment, for example, more than anything was badly planned, with the subjects influenced by the observer effect into thinking they were expected to play a role. The list and the order in which the experiments are placed reflect the author's own thoughts on the subject.

Top 10 Unethical Psychology Experiments

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