Social Influence Research - Do the Ends Justify the Means? Essay

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Social Influence Research - Do the Ends Justify the Means?


To what extent does the importance of social influence research,
justify the methods used in its investigation?

The debate about ethics in psychology focuses on two areas: protection
of participants and benefiting society. This is a double obligation
dilemma as if some psychologists are not allowed to do certain
experiments because of ethical restraints; this can cause problems
with validity. In social psychology, these psychologists have an
obligation to use their research skills to advance our knowledge of
human behaviour, for the ultimate aim of human betterment.

Milgram’s study into obedience involved participants becoming a
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The findings of this research seem to justify the ethical guidelines
broken as this experiment is a crucial insight into understanding the
extent to which people obey. Also, this experiment would not have
worked if it had followed all rules as the participants would have
known the shocks were false and therefore the experiment would not
have been so impactive. The participant would know he/she was not
harming the learner in anyway and therefore be much more willing to
follow orders.

Zimbardo’s prison experiment was a lab based experiment involving
participants being assigned to the role of guard or prisoner and then
spending 5 days (originally 14 days but the experiment was disbanded
after 5) in a ‘prison’ set up in the basement of a university. Each
‘prisoner’ was arrested in their own homes and taken to the prison. In
the course of the experiment it was noted that the prisoners were
dehumanised, humiliated and some suffered psychosomatic rashes and
even seizures. The guards became ruthless, guiltless and seemed to
enjoy the dominance and power they had over the prisoners. The aim was
to investigate how people conformed…