Ethics Worksheet

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We have been studying numerous classic experiments in the field of social psychology. Students are often surprised, and sometimes dismayed, at the types of methods used in these studies. In particular, the use of deception is often viewed as morally questionable.

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For this assignment, please choose THREE of the following classic experiments to review and then answer each of the following questions for each experiment. IMPORTANT: Please be sure to copy and paste this document into a new Word Document and then insert your responses for each question directly below the question. Do not write a paper in narrative format; this is not a formal “term paper.” However, your responses must be written in full sentences with a subject and verb (no sentence fragments or bulleted/numbered lists).

Please click on the following and peruse the ten classic experiments discussed: http://mentalfloss.com/article/52787/10-famous-psychological-experiments-could-never-happen-today. In case of any difficulty accessing the link, brief descriptions of each of the ten experiments follow below:

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1. Little Albert: John B. Watson studied classical conditioning by taking an infant who had no previous fear of animals and essentially inducing a phobia of a white rat. He did so using the principles of classical conditioning (pairing a loud noise with the introduction of the rat to the baby). The child then became fearful of the rat even without the loud noise being present.

2. Asch Conformity Experiments: Subjects were placed in a group alongside actors. All were asked to view a series of lines and say which line was the longest. The actors gave correct responses, but then began to give incorrect responses. The majority of the subjects conformed and began to give an incorrect response as well.

3. Darley & Latané Bystander Effect: Following the brutal murder of Kitty Genovese in NYC in which there were many witnesses, but no one called police, these experimenters decided to test the bystander effect. They simulated several situations, but particularly one in which the subject overheard a person in the next room (actually a recording) having a seizure and measured whether subjects who were alone were quicker to act and assist than those who believed others could overhear the medical emergency as well.

4. Milgram Obedience Experiment: In an attempt to understand how Nazi soldiers could possibly have complied with commands to kill Jews (and other victims of the Holocaust), Milgram studied obedience. In a rigged situation, participants drew straws and the subject was assigned the role of teacher. The “student” (actually a recording) was placed in another room. Whenever the “student” got an answer wrong, the teacher pressed a button to “shock” the student, and the shocks got progressively stronger. Milgram was interested to see what percentage of subjects would “shock” the student to the top of the board. The majority of subjects did so, although they were visibly uncomfortable.

5. Harlow’s Monkey Experiments: Although these were animal subjects instead of humans, there are ethical concerns. Harlow used baby rhesus monkeys and removed the babies from their mothers, replacing the mother with either a wire “mother” or a cloth “mother.” The wire mother fed the babies through a bottle, while the cloth “mother” provided nothing but comfort. Harlow was interested to see whether the association with food would cause the babies to seek comfort from the wire mother, but they did not.

6. Seligman’s Learned Helplessness Studies: Seligman used dogs and placed them in a box with a barrier in the middle. He randomly shocked the dogs through the floor. Dogs first tried to escape the shocks by jumping over the barrier, but eventually quit trying to jump and just “took” the shocks because they were unable to permanently escape the shocks.

7. Sherif’s Robbers Cave Experiment: Sherif conducted this experiment to test how groups problem solve and deal with conflict. Boys at a summer camp were split into two groups, which were kept apart from one another. The experimenters manipulated competitions between the groups to keep the conflict/tension between the groups high. Then, Sherif manipulated the environment so that the camp as a whole faced a problem, such as a water shortage. After the groups were forced to work together to solve the problem, they integrated and functioned harmoniously together.

8. Johnson’s Monster Study: This was an early study conducted to test the causes of stuttering in children. Johnson used a group of orphans and told half of the group that they had stutters. Although none of the children actually developed a stutter, they did develop problems with self-esteen often associated with children who stutter.

9. Elliott’s Blue-Eyed/Brown-Eyed Experiment: In an attempt to demonstrate the effects of prejudice/discrimination, a teacher (Jane Elliott) divided her class into blue-eyed and brown-eyed students. She cited phony research that indicated that one group was superior to the other and then treated that group with favor throughout the day. It took only one day for the children to begin acting in accordance with what they had been told. The groups were then switched, and the same observations were made.

10. Zimbardo’s Stanford Prison Experiment: Zimbardo recruited college-aged males to participate in a two-week experiment related to how people behave in prison. He randomly assigned participants to the roles of “guards” or “prisoners.” He found that, within a shockingly quick amount of time, guards became sadistic and prisoners became despondent and helpless. He ultimately wound up discontinuing the experiment after only six days because of the potential psychological damage the experiment was having on the subjects.

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Now choose three (3) experiments for which you will answer the questions below. You are free to do outside research on any of them as you please. Then, click on the link below titled “Ethics of Social Psychology Experiments,” save it onto your hard drive, and enter your responses directly within the saved document.

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