Thursday, September 08, 2016

Unethical Uses of Psychological Expertise

I'm becoming increasingly interested in the ethics of psychology specifically when it concerns digital media.

A particularly interesting debate has been sparked by the post-911 torture and abuse controversy.

"For Dr. Bradley Olson, who is past president of APA Division 48, which studies peace, conflict, and violence, using one’s training to assist in a mission like JTRIG’s, which involves the deception and manipulation of unsuspecting targets, is inherently problematic. Using one’s “expertise, research, or consultation to guide deceptive statements, even the statements of others, when the deceptive intentions are clearly documented … that is against psychological ethics,” according to Olson, who has collaborated with Soldz, including as a co-founder of the Coalition for an Ethical Psychology. “This is a terrible, terrible violation of psychological ethics” and a violation of the APA’s ethical standards, he added."

Another point of interest, selective publishing: 


"In psychology research, there is a particular problem with researchers who selectively publish some of their experiments to guarantee a positive result. "Let's say you have this theory that, when you play Mozart, people want to pay more for musical instruments," says Simonsohn. "So you do a study and you play Mozart (or not) and you ask people, 'How much would you pay for a piano or flute and five instruments?'"
If it turned out that only the price of a single type of instrument, violins, say, went up after people had listened to Mozart, it would be possible to publish a research paper that omitted the fact that the researchers had ever asked about any other instruments. This would not allow the reader to make a proper assessment of the strength of the effect that Mozart may (or may not) have on how much a person would pay for musical instruments.
Fanelli has examined this positive result bias. He looked at 4,600 studies across all disciplines between 1990 and 2007, and counted the number of papers that, after declaring an intent to test a particular hypothesis, reported a positive support for it. The overall frequency of positive supports had grown by more than 22% over this time period. In a separate study, Fanelli found that "the odds of reporting a positive result were around five times higher among papers in the disciplines of psychology and psychiatry and economics and business compared with space science"."

And, of course, there's money and entitlement that drive certain unethical behaviors;

Whether affluenza is real or imagined, money really does change everything, as the song goes — and those of high social class do tend to see themselves much differently than others. Wealth (and the pursuit of it) has been linked with immoral behavior — and not just in movies like The Wolf of Wall Street. Psychologists who study the impact of wealth and inequality on human behavior have found that money can powerfully influence our thoughts and actions in ways that we’re often not aware of, no matter our economic circumstances. Although wealth is certainly subjective, most of the current research measures wealth on scales of income, job status or measures of socioeconomic circumstances, like educational attainment and intergenerational wealth.

Hmmm. Some of this sounds all too familiar.


Edit: I located the UConn Ethics hotline for any of you out there who may have questions about any local activities that come to mind;

"You may use the University’s confidential reportline at 1-888-685-2637 to report any compliance concerns you may have. Individuals who report in good faith possible compliance issues will be afforded confidentiality and/or anonymity to the extent possible under the law. Also, you may file a complaint directly with the Office of State Ethics."




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