Just like any other guidelines in research, the ethical guidelines established by the APA are there to ensure the safety of others. I do agree that most of the guidelines are fair, however there is one part under the Ethics Code Standard 1.03 in human research that I have a problem with. It states “Ethics Code establishes a higher standard of conduct than is required by law, psychologists must meet the higher ethical standard.” It seems like they are really strict in ensuring that the psychologists remain committed to the basic principles of human rights. There are steps that one can take if they suspect a colleague is violating the Ethics Code. These steps force a chain of command, first starting with the psychologist themselves, +and if still unresolved, then you are able to inform the state or national committees. The same can be said for research involving animals, and these ethical guidelines are enforced by The Committee on Animal Research and Ethics. Although these guidelines are in place, there is still many areas of the psychological field that have never been explored, thus leaving room for abuse of human rights. So although the Ethics Code states to be above and beyond what is required by law, there have been many instances of mistreatment. I find the guidelines to appear to be restrictive and concerned for safety, yet due to emerging questions in the field, the experiments tend to go beyond these guidelines and in turn cause the Ethics Code to once again be revised to attempt to prevent future harm.
I researched one situation in particular of when ethical standards were severely violated. The Stanford Prison Experiment of 1971 is an incredible story of how the APA standards were of no use and proved to actually destroy lives in search of scientific discovery. Twenty four college students participated in this experiment, and were told that they alone would be observed in real prison life and it’s affects on individuals. In reality, every person in the prison was really a college student, from the inmates to the prison guards. They had each answered an ad requesting volunteers for a psychological study on prison life, interviewed, and screened based on their mental and physical history. The prisoners were stripped, sprayed, and humiliated just as though they were actual prisoners. In order to quickly add to the emasculation of real prison life, the “prisoners” were put in smocks that fit like dresses and chains on their ankles.
The guards were given no rules, but instead were free to make their own regulations in order to maintain law and order in the prison. The experiment was supposed to last for two weeks, but after six days the results of the study were so disturbing that it was forced to end. In only a few days, the guards became sadistic and the prisoners became depressed and began showing signs of extreme depression. Every person involved allowed the prison environment to completely take over, and paranoia, anger, and aggression filled the prison. The experiment was not set up in a professional manner in order to reach a scientific discovery, but rather became an actual prison that affected those involved for their entire lives, just as though it had all been real. The outcome of the experiment was not worth the harm, because instead of being a circumstance that taught how prison affects an individual, it showed that even the researchers involved were more concerned with their props and maintaining control, than discovering how these people were thinking due to the conditions.