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Is Deception of Human Participants Ethical?

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Taking Sides on Issue 1

"Is Deception of Human Participants Ethical?"

        In Issue 1, the deception of human participants is dicussed and sides are taken on the matter. The American Psychological Association (APA) published Ethical Principles of Psychologists and Code of Conduct to act as a set of guidelines for the treatment of research participants, which are enforced by institutional review boards (IRBs). Most aspects of the code are uncontoversial, so psychologists follow the guidelines with ease apart from one aspect: the role of deception in research. Only a relatively small proportion of all studies involve some form of deception in the whole, but a large percentage of social psychology studies involve deception (1). There are psychologists who agree with the use of deception, and then there are psychologists who disagree with its use. Some present strong arguments, and others present non viable arguments. 132 words

        One viable argument presented by social psychologist Alan C. Elms points out that deception is sometimes necessary to tell us the truth about human behavior and that there is no other feasible way to obtain the desired information (2). In order to observe genuine responses, the situation must be real. Elms appeals to the reader through personalization and through his own morals. He states that he finds deception less comfortable than just asking people to describe what they would do, but he also states that deception is necessary. Another of Elms' strong points in his side of the argument is his comparison of deception the way a psychologist utilizes it versus the way a con artist utilizes it. He appeals to the reader by comparing the deceptive practices of a research experiement and that of a more harmful stunt that a con artist would pull. He makes the psychologist's use of deception seem minute and morally correct when placed next to a more negative usage of deception. It compares the use of deception for the good of the people as a whole and deception for the good of one person's selfish pleasures.

        One weak point that Elms makes is in his introduction to his argument. He sets up deception as a negative object, which makes his supporting it look bad on his part. He then compares deception to that of a play on a stage. He makes an allegorical appeal to the audience. He then goes and uses hatred subtly within the body of his introduction. He uses name calling, referring to people against deception as extemists, mad scientists of Hollywood, Nazi eugenicists, corner cutters, and Machiavellian careerists. Hatred could definitely take its part in pursuasion, due to the fact that the terms Nazi and extremist put into sister sentences usually bring about a negative outlook. He provides complete persuasion but no factual data as to why the reader should be for deception in research. He compares people against it to Nazis and extremists and he even brings in one of Shakespears works to morally pursuade the reader, but no emperical data makes the introduction weak on this readers end. This reader is not convinced yet.



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