Importance of Ethical Standards in Psychology

Given that the field of psychology deals with the human mind, it is no wonder that ethical standards have been put in place by organizations like the American Psychological Association to protect patients and research subjects. "However important the issue under investigation," writes Saul McLeod for SimplyPsychology, "psychologists need to remember that they have a duty to respect the rights and dignity of research participants."

Without ethical restrictions on psychological research, patients and research subjects could be put at risk for harm that even the psychologists themselves might not be aware of. As Deborah Smith writes for, "When psychologists do end up in ethical quandaries, it's often because they unwittingly slid too far down a slippery slope, a result of ignorance about their ethical obligations or thinking they could handle a situation that spiraled out of control." Certain courses in a Bachelor of Science in psychology program will help prepare students for these situations.

The Importance of Informed Consent

It is important that participants be given as much information as possible about the nature of the research they will be a part of. McLeod notes, "In practice this means it is not sufficient to simply get potential participants to say 'Yes.' They also need to know what it is that they are agreeing to."

This means that participants must be fully aware of any foreseeable risks, as well as benefits, they might face during the research. As Psych Yogi writes, "It is no use to gain consent from participants when they are not informed about the true nature of the study."


In psychological research and practice, confidentiality is another important ethical consideration. "No one outside of the experiment, and ideally in the experiment too, should be able to identify the participants from the results," according to Psych Yogi.

The ethical guidelines outlined by the American Psychological Association stipulate, "Psychologists have a primary obligation and take reasonable precautions to protect confidential information obtained through or stored in any medium." Confidentiality between psychologists and their patients is not just legally required, but also helps maintain the trust of the patients.

Debriefing Research Participants

After the research has ended, it is important to debrief the participants to ensure that they were unharmed by the study. As Psych Yogi points out, "…it allows the participants to ask any questions about the study to make sure they fully understand the content of it."

According to McLeod, "The aim of the debriefing is not just to provide information, but to help the participant leave the experimental situation in a similar frame of mind as when he/she entered it." Essentially, debriefing is a way to provide context to the participants and make sure they were not harmed by the study in any way.

All of these ethical guidelines serve to protect patients and subjects, as well as the researchers. Being educated on the ethical standards and legal mandates in the field of psychology is necessary for a successful career, and a BS in psychology is a great starting point.

Learn more about the LSUA online Bachelor of Science in Psychology program. LSUA also offers an online Bachelor of General Studies in Psychology program, which is designed for students who have a large number of transfer credits.


Simply Psychology: Psychology Research Ethics

Psych Yogi: Ethical Issues in Psychology

American Psychological Association: 10 Ways Practitioners Can Avoid Frequent Ethical Pitfalls

American Psychological Association: Ethical Principles of Psychologists and Code of Conduct

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