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Australasian Human Research Ethics Consultancy Services Pty Ltd (AHRECS)

What can Milgram and Zimbardo teach ethics committees and qualitative researchers about minimizing harm? (Martin Tolich 2014)

 


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“The first objective of this article is to demonstrate that ethics committee members can learn a great deal from a forensic analysis of two classic psychology studies: Zimbardo’s Stanford Prison Study and Milgram’s Obedience Study. Rather than using hindsight to retrospectively eradicate the harm in these studies, the article uses a prospective minimization of harm technique. Milgram attempted to be ethical by trying to protect his subjects through debriefing and a follow-up survey. He could have done more, however, by carrying out what ethics committees routinely insist on today for those researching sensitive topics. The establishment of counselling supports to identify harm to participants would have minimized additional harm. Were these in place, or in Zimbardo’s case had the Stanford Ethics Committee properly identified Zimbardo’s conflict of interest – he was both a principal investigator and the prison warden – how much harm could have been minimized? The second aim is to examine how some qualitative authors routinely demonize these classic studies. It might appear that there are too few cases of unethical qualitative research to justify such an examination; however, this article identifies a number of recent examples of ethically dubious qualitative research. This would suggest that qualitative research should examine its own ethics before poaching from psychology.”

Tolich, M. (2014). What can Milgram and Zimbardo teach ethics committees and qualitative researchers about minimizing harm?. Research Ethics, 1747016114523771.  http://rea.sagepub.com/content/10/2/86

Also see:
Creator Of The Stanford Prison Experiment Looks Back On Its Disturbing Outcome 44 Years Later – Huffpost Live (Ryan Buxton 2015)



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