What ethical guidelines should researchers follow when conducting research?

Modern psychological research in the West needs to follow ethical guidelines set out by research organisations such as the American Psychological Association (APA) or the British Psychological Society (BPS). These are important guidelines that ensure the human and animal rights to subjects involved in psychological research.

Considerations when studying humans:

  • Informed consent (or retrospective consent): participants sign a form that states they agree to participate in the study.
  • Deception: this means to lead people to believe something that is not true. The nature, severity and purpose of the deception are important factors for ethical review boards to consider.
  • Debriefing: telling the participants after the study has concluded what the purpose was and what the results were.
  • Anonymity: removing names from data and not publishing any participant’s name in the final report.
  • The right to withdrawal: participants are able to leave the experiment at any time.

It is important to note that there are other ethical issues involved in research studies and many cannot be categorized under one piece of terminology. 

Here is a video that outlines these, and more, from the BPS.


Considerations when studying animals:

  • Minimise harm and suffering
  • Justifiable reason for research
  • Euthanising to end suffering
  • Animal welfare

Not that you’ll ever need to read it, but here you can find the entire American Psychological Associations (APA) Ethical Guidelines. It will give you an idea of just how important these considerations are in modern psychological research. Here is the British counterpart from the British Psychological Society (BPS).