Friday, May 6, 2016

Nobody gets hurt in psychology experiments (and it's not because of IRB oversight)

Can someone tell me about a psychology study in which participants were actually harmed? Nobody was hurt in either the Milgram experiments or the Stanford Prison "experiment." If any of those participants had brought a civil tort case, they would quickly have found that temporary emotional distress is not considered compensable damage. 

2016 Apr 19:1-11. [Epub ahead of print]

Do Some Students Need Special Protection From Research on Sex and Trauma? New Evidence for Young Adult Resilience in "Sensitive Topics" Research.


Institutional review boards (IRBs) have expressed concerns that certain individuals or groups, such as participants who are younger, ethnic minorities, or who have certain psychological or personality traits, may be particularly distressed when participating in "sensitive topics" research. This study examined the effects of several demographic and individual difference factors (i.e., age, sex, ethnicity, religiosity, Big Five personality traits, and baseline psychological distress levels) on reactions to participation in sensitive topics research. Participants were 504 undergraduates who completed an extensive battery of either trauma/sex questionnaires or cognitive tests and rated their positive and negative emotional reactions and the perceived benefits and mental costs of participating. They also compared research participation to normal life stressors. Our findings indicated that individual difference and demographic risk factors do not increase participant distress after participating in sex/trauma research over and above that experienced after participating in traditionally minimal-risk cognitive tasks. Participants generally found research participation less distressing than normal life stressors and even enjoyable.

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