Ethical Consideration & Issues in Psychology Research

Moral issues may be ambiguous and rarely define right or wrong, and it is a matter of subjective judgment of whether research is ethically justified. To resolve the issue of subjectivity, the British Psychological Society and American Psychological Association have laid out codes of ethics that guide the ethical behavior of researchers.

Ethical Considerations in Psychology Research

In psychology research, ethical considerations are of paramount importance. These include issues related to informed consent, confidentiality, and protection from harm.

Major ethical considerations are −

Informed Consent

The researchers need to obtain informed consent from the participants, which informs them about the process of the study, the potential harms, and how the participants will benefit from the study. The outline of the study is given to the participants before the conduction of the study. Adults above the age of 18 can consent themselves, while when a study is conducted on children, consent is obtained from their parents or legal guardians. The informed consent must be accompanied by an information sheet comprising all the details of the study that the participants need to know.


After the conduction of the study, the process and the outcomes should be discussed with the participants. The participants must be given a fair idea of the study and what the researcher aimed to investigate. If the purpose of the study was not revealed initially to obtain accurate results, and the participant was deceived, the researcher needs to explain why it was done. Debriefing needs to be as detailed as possible. Debriefing allows the participants to leave with the same mind frame they entered the study.

Protection of Participants

Researchers must ensure that the participants do not face distress during the study. The participants must be protected from potential physical and mental harm. The researcher must take special care of vulnerable groups like the elderly, children, and the differently-abled.


This is the process wherein the participants are misled or given false information by the researcher. The researchers should ensure that in case they cannot reveal the true objective of the experiment and deception is necessary to obtain accurate results, they should not hide its true nature from the participants and give them the reasons for deception post the conduction of the study.


Once the researchers gain the data from participants, it should only be used for research purposes. Researchers should only force participants to reveal their names if they feel like doing so and ensure the participants that their information and responses will not be revealed to any third party.


The researchers must ensure the participants and explicitly let them know they have the right to withdraw from the study if they feel uncomfortable or do not feel like being a part of it. Participants can withdraw from the study even after submitting their data.

Ethical Principles of Research Given by APA

The American Psychological Association specifies five principles for research ethics. Discussing intellectual property frankly refers to giving adequate credit to sources of the study, mentioning accurate references, and publishing original research free from plagiarism and not a copy of someone else's work. Being conscious of multiple roles refers to Psychologists and researchers being mindful of not establishing any personal relations with the participants of the study and handling transference and counter-transference adequately. Following informed consent rules highlights the importance of informing the participants about the study process and allowing them to participate in the study if they consent and not by coercion.

Respecting privacy and confidentiality refers to keeping the individual results of the study between the researcher and the participant and not revealing the participants' names and other personal information to a third party. Tapping into ethical resources aids the researchers when they face an ethical dilemma. They can refer to the resources that help guide them to act ethically and conduct ethical research without violating the rights and dignity of the study's participants.

Common Ethical Issues in Research and Publication

A variety of ethical issues are involved in research and publication, which are discussed below −

Study Design and Ethics Approval

A researcher must adhere to the decided protocol; behaving in a way that is not in line with the rules is considered misconduct. In addition, researchers must submit their reports and obtain the approvals of a review board to ensure that the study is ethical and does not violate the rights and dignity of the participants.

Data Analysis

It is the responsibility of the researcher to analyze the data adequately. Wrongly reading the data or manipulating the result amounts to misconduct and a violation of ethical principles.


The author should complete their responsibility and indulge in activities like data collection, editing, correcting grammar and language, submitting and revising the manuscript, and not indulge in ghostwriting, which is getting their work done by others but taking the credit for the entire study themselves.

Conflicts of Interest

Suppose two or more researchers' interests in a study are conflicting, such as personal, political, commercial, or financial conflicts. In that case, they must be discussed and resolved initially, or they may negatively impact the study by influencing the researchers' judgments.

Redundant Publication and Plagiarism

Copying someone else's work and publishing it in their name is termed plagiarism and a major ethical fallacy committed by researchers. Therefore, legal action must be taken against the researcher if an unoriginal, plagiarised study is conducted.


Following ethical principles like obtaining the consent of participants, giving reasons for deception, maintaining the privacy and confidentiality of participants, and allowing them to withdraw from the study ensures that ethical research is conducted. Controversial experiments conducted by Psychology laid the foundations for developing ethical principles. Although the ethical principles only apply to researchers working with human participants, more attention is now being paid to highlighting ethical behavior while working with animal subjects and ensuring no harm is caused to them.

Updated on: 10-Feb-2023

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