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Write a 5–7 page assessment in which you examine the controversy related to research and ethics

Write a 5–7 page assessment in which you examine the controversy related to research and ethics in the field of social psychology. It is essential to be able to critically analyze the research methods used in studies in order to weigh the validity of the conclusions or recommendations. By successfully completing this assessment, you will demonstrate your proficiency in the following course competencies and assessment criteria:

Competency 1: Apply information literacy and research skills to locate scholarly information in the field of social psychology. Use valid, scholarly research resources relevant to the field of social psychology.

Competency 4: Examine the research methods frequently used in the study of social psychology. Describe the impact of controversial research studies on the human participants.

Competency 5: Examine controversial research studies in social psychology from an ethical standpoint. Explain how controversial research studies contributed to the development of ethical standards in the field of psychology. Develop evidence-based arguments for and against controversial research studies in the field of social psychology. Describe what controversial research studies revealed about conformity and obedience to authority.

Competency 6: Apply critical thinking skills to resolve conflicts and issues in the field of social psychology. Determine whether knowledge gained justifies controversial research studies in the field of social psychology.

Competency 7: Communicate in a manner that is scholarly, professional, and consistent with expectations for professionals in the field of psychology. Write coherently to support a central idea with correct grammar, usage, and mechanics as expected of a psychology professional. Use APA format and style.


To prepare for this assessment, locate scholarly articles on Milgram’s studies on obedience to authority and Zimbardo’s Stanford Prison experiment on the power of social roles. These two pivotal studies provide the basis for this assessment. Examine the controversy related to research and ethics in the field of social psychology. Consider the information you located on Milgram’s studies on obedience to authority and Zimbardo’s Stanford Prison experiment on the power of social roles. Include the following in your assessment:

Describe what these studies revealed about conformity and obedience to authority.

Explain the benefits from these research studies. What knowledge or insight was gained?

Describe the impact of the studies in terms of the effects on the human participants.

Explain how these (and other) controversial research studies have shaped the principles and standards in the current APA Ethical Principles of Psychologists and Code of Ethics. Develop evidence-based arguments both for and against these types of controversial research studies. Do you think that the information that was obtained was worth the risks to the human subjects? Explain and support your position.

Your submitted assessment should be 5–7 pages in length, excluding title page and reference page, and use references from at least three scholarly resources. Be sure to follow APA guidelines for format and style. Additional Requirements Include a title page and reference page. At least three current scholarly or professional resources. APA format. Times New Roman font, 12 point. Double spaced

Sample Answer

Ethics in Research


Protection of the dignity of human subjects involved in a scientific study is a key consideration for researchers. The researcher needs to uphold high ethical standards to ensure that there is no exploitation of the subjects involved in a study. Research ethics tends to be premised on a set of principles. First, there is need to ensure that informed consent is issued from the participants including explanation of their involvement and objectives of the study. Second is the need to uphold human dignity. Third is maintaining confidentiality.  Lack of adherence to the research principles could lead to the study being called off. Consequently, the results that are obtained from such studies cannot be applied to the entire study population. However, there are studies that tend not to conform to the principles of research ethics. Such leads to controversy over the validity of their studies. This paper investigates the ethics in research with reference to Milgram’s studies on obedience and Zimbardo’s Stanford Prison Experiment.

Milgram’s studies on obedience and Zimbardo’s Stanford Prison Experiment

The Milgram’s studies on obedience entailed the recruitment and payment of participants to participate in the study. The study entailed instructors and subjects with the instructors coercing the subjects into agreeing to their commands. The study by Zimbardo subjected the subjects to a prison environment where the subjected acting out as the prisoners were distraught and subjected to emotionally torture (Zimbardo, 2017). Such led to the cancelling of the experiment on the sixth day as opposed to the fourteen days that was initially scheduled. There are two sets of controversies that are existent in the two experiments. First is the payment of the subjects to participate in the study. Second is the subjection of the research subjects to the inhumane treatments just for the sake of gaining desirable results by the researchers.

Conformity and Authority

The two studies reveal how humans tend to conform and obey when subjected to a given set of rules. Taking the case of Milgram’s studies on obedience, the teachers had the ease of increasing the shock to the maximum voltage provided that they were orders that were brought about by their superiors (Sampson, 2015). While the subjects have the capability and the ease of objecting some of the instructions that they are given, reading out of prompts, where the subsequent prompts are more punitive, they would likely do so provided it is an order granted. In the case of and Zimbardo’s Stanford Prison Experiment, the subjects in the study were capable of conforming to the prison standards. The “prisoners” were able to adapt to their new life and role such as cleaning the toilets with their bare hands (Haslam, Reicher & McDermott, 2015). Those playing the role of the prison wardens also conformed to the new role by mistreating the prisoners.

Benefits from the research Studies

The primary benefit that is realized from the two studies is the extent to which unethical design of a social experiment could lead to deleterious effects on the results that are likely to be drawn from the study. The lack of consideration of ethics in the study design could lead to a study being called off prior to the timeline that had been issued by the researcher to undertake the study. For example, the Zimbardo’s Stanford Prison Experiment had to be called off before time since the researcher was convinced that the study subjects were under inhumane treatment. Second, there is the affirmation that money is a way through which a researcher would coerce his or her subjects to give in to a study without seeking their consent. Therefore, well designed studies needs to discourage the issuance of finance incentives and participation in any given study needs to be exclusively voluntary.

Impacts of the studies

The studies have shaped the extent to which ethics is considered and taken into consideration in the social science researchers. The protection of human subjects is a key consideration to ensure that the dignity of human are maintained. The studies that involve the human subjects need to ensure that there are a set of measures that need to be put in place to ensure that humans subjects are not subjected to inhumane interventions. The principle of consent is also realized from the two studies. It would be ideal to inform the research participants of the consequences of participating in the study and both the positive and negative results that could result from the study. Human participants in any given study need to be granted consideration in terms of the level of engagement that they ought to forge in a study and their contribution to the study in which they are participants.

How controversial research studies shape principles and standards in the current APA Ethical Principles of Psychologists and Code of Ethics

APA is an institution that review ethical issues that are reported from controversial studies and setting of strategies that would lead to negation of such vices in the subsequent studies. The findings by APA are often passed down to the Institutional Review Boards (IRB) for implementations. The ethical standards by APA re regularly reviewed based on what they learn from the controversial studies. The ethical principle of protection from harm is derived from the Zimbardo’s Stanford Prison Experiment. The protection from harm is evident from the decision by majority of the study subjects to withdraw from the study owing to the psychological torture and distress that they went through their involvement in the study.

Arguments for and against controversial research studies

The controversial researches studies are crucial in affirm how the environment could shape the behavior of humans. The utilization of human subjects would often lead to the understanding of how humans would likely react to a given situations. However, where the human subjectsare not utilized, it would be difficult to transfer such findings to humans. Such is based on the string conclusions that are derived from studies by Zimbardo and Milgram regarding how humans respond to obedience and conformity. The controversial research would also lead to the determination of the changes that need to be made in the ethical guidelines to be utilized in the future studies.

Information obtained versus Risks to human subjects

The information that was obtained from the two studies was not worth the risks that were presented to the human subjects. The human rights, ethical rights and the welfare of the study subjects are of priority to any research. The realization that the study subjects had been exploited is a key reason that could lead to the cancellation of the findings that had been drawn by the researcher in the study. Furthermore, the studies were to uphold or reject the findings that had been presented in the previous studies. According to the Milgram’s agency theory, human behavior can be described as either being agentic or autonomous(Sampson, 2015). That is, while the humans have the capability of making rational choices and taking responsibilities of what they do, there is the realization that they would accept and execute orders, where they are sure that such orders are legitimate. However, their key hope is that the legitimate authority would take responsibility of the actions that they execute of their behalf. In such case, it is worthy involving the human subjects and further ensures that ethical principles are honored.


In conclusion, the studies by Zimbardo and Milgram are controversial owing to their lack of adherence to the ethical codes set out by APA. The studies involved human subjects and further subjected them to conditions where they would endure emotional and physical suffering. The lack of adherence to ethical codes of scientific practice is further responsible for the set of biases that are existent in the studies. Taking the case of Milgram’s study, all the study subjects are male, thus, leading to the question of applicability of the study findings to the female population. Additionally, the sample size that is drawn from the study is not representative of the study population. The involvement of people who respond to a newspaper advert is not a scientific process that needs to be sought in the determination of the sample size that needs to be involved in the stud. Such compromises the capability of the study findings to be applied to the general population.


Haslam, S. A., Reicher, S. D., & McDermott, M. R. (2015). 45 Studying Harm-Doing without Doing Harm: The Case of the BBC Prison Study, the Stanford Prison Experiment, and the Role-Conformity Model of Tyranny. Ethical Challenges in the Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 134.

Sampson, E. E. (2015). Dialogic Partners and the Shaping of Social Reality: Implications for Good and Evil in Milgram’s Studies of Obedience. Pastoral Psychology64(1), 51-61.

Zimbardo, P. G. (2017). On the ethics of intervention in human psychological research: With special reference to the Stanford prison experiment. Cognition,().

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