Taking Sides Issue 1: Deception of Human Participants Ethical?

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Abstract This paper will attempt to explore two different viewpoints on the use of deception in human participants for social psychological experiments. The paper will compare and contrast two different articles that have conflicting views on the topic. Alan C. Elms, the author of a pro- deception article views deception as just, ethical, and even necessary tool of social psychology; however he does assert a very strong degree of caution, and care when implementing deception in an experimental design (1985). Opposite Elms, Diana Baumrind views deception as unethical and unfair to unsuspecting subjects who are unaware of such “trickery”. She debates that the harm done to the individual, society, and to the profession are at times irreversible or to great and outweigh possible benefit from the study. Both, Elms and Baumrind, agree that if deception is used in an experiment, debriefing is the key to resolving any future harm to the profession and the participant. Discussion I have never participated in a study in which deception is involved so I personally cannot comment on how one might feel after the deception is revealed to them. I can imagine that there would be a certain degree of unpleasant arousal or, discomforting emotion involved with thought of professionals manipulating me. I do believe the unpleasant arousal and negative emotions would simply be temporary, if the experiment was conducted in accordance to American Psychological Association (APA) ethical guideline, and the IRB. I would judge the ethics of the study based on the way the researchers and experimenters handle the debriefing. I feel that deception, at times is a necessary tool social psychologist need to understand and generalize certain phenomena. Elm’s discusses the need for deception for increased external validity. He argues that if participants know what behaviors and emotions researchers
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