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Posted on May 1st, 2014, by

Zimbardo’s Stanford Prison experiment, Milgram’s obedience studies, and other sociological studies reveal the full extent to which sociological studies are closely intertwined with ethical issues. In this regard, researchers should pay a particular attention to ethical issues while conducting the study because they may be harmful for psychological condition of participants of scientific experiments and studies. On the other hand, researcher may have difficulties with adequate assessment of ethical issues related to their studies. In this respect, it is possible to refer to Zimbardo’s and Milgram’s experiments which revealed unexpected outcomes because researchers did not expect to receive such outcomes and they were not conscious of such effects of their studies on their participants. Therefore, sociological studies should always take into consideration ethical issues.

Ethical and unethical research

In fact, ethical research is the research that meets ethical norms and standards, socially acceptable norms and models of behavior that meet social norms and standards. In contrast, unethical research is the research that neglects basic ethical and social norms and standards, when the researcher intentionally conducts the study that contradicts to basic ethical and social norms and is offensive for participants of the study. In fact, the study may become unethical after its beginning, regardless of expectations of the researcher because the researcher can fail to foresee all negative ethical issues that may arise in the course of the study. Therefore, researchers should try to foresee ethical effects of their studies and prevent the violation of ethical norms and standards. Hence, researchers should give up scientific experiments as soon as negative ethical effects of the study become evident.

Sociological experiment and understanding of the surrounding world

At the same time, sociological experiments are essential for understanding of the surrounding world. In fact, sociological experiments help to identify specific behavioral patterns and standards accepted in different environment. In such a way, sociological studies and experiments help to understand better the surrounding world and the life of the society as well as complex social relations between different social groups.

Reasons for conducting the study, termination, follow-up study

In fact, the study conducted by Zimbarod raised a number of ethical issues but still this study was worth conducting because the researcher attempted to model the prisoner-guard relationship. This study could help to understand better the prison environment and behavior of individuals in prison. However, the study should be terminated earlier, when first signs of the traumatic effects on subjects of the study became obvious. In fact, the study should last for three and no longer than four days, while the study ended up only on the sixth day. Follow-up studies should be more participant-friendly, like the study conducted by Miglram, where actors were used as participants.

Type of guard

If I was the guard, I would try to use liberal and friendly model of behavior. However, I could face difficulties with maintenance this model in the prison environment.

Prisoner behavior and endurableness of the experiment

I could hardly afford the experiment, if I was a prisoner. At any rate, I am not ready to perform the role of a prisoner, judging from Zimbardo’s experiment.

Ethical dilemmas of Zimbardo’s experiment compared to Milgram’s obedience experiments

In contrast to Zimbardo, Milgram involved actor-participants. Therefore, harms caused to participants were rather imagined for other participants than real. Teachers were subjects of the study and they believed their learners were real participants, while in actuality they were actors. Instead, Zimbardo involved real participants as prisoners.

Conclusion: ethics as a fundamental concern of a sociologist

Thus, ethics should be the primary concern of sociologist to avoid harmful effects of the study on participants.

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