Read the following scenarios and answer the reflection questions that follow.
- Jennifer and Bethany have both recently declared psychology as their majors. One evening as they are looking over their required courses, they start talking.
Jennifer: “I don’t see why we have to learn statistics and research methods! I am never going to use them anyway. I want to be a counselor and I am just going to deal with each person as an individual. Science treats everyone as if they are interchangeable and totally predictable. In fact, I think people would be better counselors and teachers and social workers if they didn’t take research classes at all, because then they would treat everyone as individuals, not clones.”
Bethany: “People are a lot more predictable than you think. Psychologists have learned so much about human behavior in the last hundred years or so using the scientific method. I really believe that if you can figure out all the factors that are affecting someone’s behavior, you can be pretty accurate in figuring out what they are going to do. I’ve decided that I want to be a researcher, because I think I can help more people in the long run than you will as a therapist. As a researcher, I can develop programs that will help a lot of people who suffer from the same problem. A therapist can only help one person at a time, and sometimes it takes years for a person to get better.”
a. How do Jennifer and Bethany differ in their understanding of what people are like? With whom do you agree more, and why?
b. What is ethically troubling about taking Jennifer’s position to the extreme? What would happen if therapists received no training in the scientific study of human behavior?
c. What is ethically troubling about taking Bethany’s position to the extreme? What is the problem with assuming that if you can figure out all the variables (genes, environment, etc.) you can perfectly predict people’s behavior?
- Dr. Franklin designed a treatment for panic attacks and tried it with all of her clients who suffered from such attacks, and had great success. Over a ten-year period, Dr. Franklin treated more than 100 clients, in all of whom the technique significantly reduced panic. The treatment consisted of the therapist (Dr. Franklin) leading the patient through a series of relaxation exercises in her office. Dr. Franklin was so excited about the success of this treatment that she decided to market it to therapists nationwide. For $33 (admittedly reasonable for a psychological measure or technique), she sent therapists a script of everything she said to the patient during the relaxation exercises. A lot of therapists purchased the treatment, because they were very impressed with the success rate that Dr. Franklin reported. However, six months later, Dr. Franklin started to receive calls, letters, and e-mails from therapists all over the country, who complained that the treatment had proven completely useless for their clients.
- How would you explain the fact that Dr. Franklin had so much success and the other therapists such failure? How would reliability analyses have helped this problem?
- From an ethical point of view, why should Dr. Franklin have done reliability analyses before marketing her treatment program?
c. Keeping in mind that she never gave any false information to anyone who purchased her treatment program, do you think Dr. Franklin should give the therapists who purchased her program a refund of their money? Why or why not?
- Karen worked with Dr. Tarner on a research study for two years. They collected data on flavor preferences in rats and found some very impressive results. They presented their research at a conference and submitted a paper about the project to an academic journal. When the reviews of their manuscript came back from the journal, the reviewers had several questions about the data. At that point, Dr. Tarner asked Karen to look over the data and the SPSS output from the study and double check that they had done everything correctly. When Karen reviewed the data, she realized that she had made a mistake in some of it. Inadvertently, she had repeated some of the same data values twice in the data file, so it appeared that there were 270 observations when there were actually only 240.
- Why might Karen decide not to tell Dr. Tarner about the error?
- What are some possible negative consequences that might result if Karen did tell Dr. Tarner and they both reported it to the journal editors?
c. What are some possible negative consequences that might result if Karen tells Dr. Tarner but they agree not to report the mistake to the journal editor?
- Beverly really wants to go to graduate school in psychology and has the grades to get in, but she knows that she needs to have some research experience. She therefore begins working with Dr. Miserendino on a project in which she is observing white rats and measuring the amount of time it takes them to learn to navigate through a maze, depending on whether the animal has been given a drug or a placebo. Beverly is supposed to collect data every day for six days in a row (Monday through Saturday) to see what happens as the drug gradually wears off. She collects the data Monday through Friday, but on Saturday she isn’t able to go to the campus, because of a family emergency. She knows from talking to Dr. Miserendino about the study that it is too expensive to repeat the study, because both the rats themselves and the drugs are very costly. She also knows that if she tells Dr. Miserendino that she missed a day of data collection, Dr. Miserendino will be really upset. She considers making up the data just for Saturday, based on the data she had collected for the rest of the week. She knows that Dr. Miserendino would never have to find out what happened.
Assuming that Dr. Miserendino never does find out about the made-up data, what are some possible negative ethical consequences of Beverly’s decision to falsify the data?
a. Why is it risky for Beverly to make up the data?
b. What would you choose to do if you were in Beverly’s place? Explain.
5. As part of their class requirements, the students in Dr. Taylor’s Research Design and Analysis class are sent over to Trumbull Mall to observe interactions between mothers and their toddler-aged children. They are told not to interact with the moms at all, but just record certain behaviors, like the number of times they speak harshly to their children and the number of times the children whine or cry.
One of the mothers notices that the students are watching people and complains to mall security. The manager of the mall asks the students where they are from, then writes a letter of complaint to Dr. Taylor. Here is an excerpt:
”I am requesting that you do not engage in any more observational research at Trumbull Mall. I don’t think it is right to allow students to observe people’s behavior without getting their permission first. It is a violation of privacy and is wrong even if they don’t realize they are being watched. People come to the mall to shop, not to be watched.”
- What are some good reasons for the manager’s concerns? Explain.
- What are some good reasons why the students should be able to do this type of research? Explain.
- If you were in Dr. Taylor’s position, how would you handle the situation?