Ethical Considerations

Ethical considerations are taken into account when an experiment is planned. In most academic institutions, the proposed experimental protocol is reviewed by an institutional review board to ensure that experimental procedures are appropriate (if they are not, federal funds will not be granted for the research). In dealing with human subjects, psychologists follow a code of ethical principles published by the American Psychological Association, which requires investigators to

  • obtain informed consent from all subjects

  • protect subjects from harm and discomfort

  • treat all experimental data confidentially

  • explain the experiment and the results to the subjects afterward

Similarly, when research is conducted with animals, the project is reviewed by an institutional animal care and use committee (IACUC) to be certain that it is necessary to use animals as subjects to test the hypotheses and that other procedures are not feasible. It also determines that appropriate sample sizes and procedures are used in the experiment and that animals will be given proper care. The IACUC also periodically visits all of the animal colonies to ensure that the research animals are appropriately cared for.