Ever wondered what the perfect answer to an Extended Response Question looks like?
The Extended Response Questions (ERQs) in IB Psychology are the all important 22 mark essay questions in the Paper 1 and Paper 2 examinations, at both Higher and Standard Levels (HL and SL). The IB Psychology student has to master the preparation for these questions in order to achieve any level of success in their exams.
There are no surprises in the IB Psychology exams. You know exactly which ERQs could be asked, they are given to you in the learning outcomes for the course. And, as such, you need to prepare answers to each of these questions.
Ethics is the moral correctness of a specified conduct – in this case, the moral correctness of animal and human research at the CLOA. In cognitive psychology research, ethics must be considered to ensure participants (humans and animals) are not harmed and that research conducted is ethically valid. Researchers should always conduct research in an ethical manner and studies should always be critically evaluated for ethical issues.
Ethical standards formulated by the American Psychology Association (APA, a scientific and professional organisation that represents psychologists) states that all research done in psychology, including that at the BLOA, must abide by six specific ethical guidelines, these include:
1. The protection of participants - Participants should be protected from physical and mental harm and distress (humiliation, stress, injury, etc.) and that participants should not be forced to reveal personal information.
2. Consent - Participants should be informed of the true aims and nature of research before giving consent. However, sometimes it is not possible to give full information about research. This is especially true if participant bias could be expected; i.e., knowing the true aims of a study may affect participants’ behaviour and thus the results of a study. For example, knowing beforehand that a study is researching how an emotion (e.g., anger) is related to physiology (e.g., adrenaline – a neurotransmitter and hormone) could lead to participants responding more cautiously and thoughtfully to the experimental conditions than they otherwise would (Schachter & Singer, 1962). It is also considered acceptable not to give full informed consent if no harm is expected (e.g., using MRI scans to examine changes in the structure of the hippocampus of London taxi drivers as a result of intense learning – Maguire et al., 2000).
A guardian or family member should also give consent to the study if the participants are children (under the age of 18) or unable to give consent (e.g., a participant severely affected by Alzheimer’s disease).
3. Right to withdraw - Participants should be informed of their right to withdraw their participation and data at any time in the study (even at the end) without penalty. This is important because individual differences means that researchers can never be certain if a particular participant will be experiencing stress and discomfort or not.
4. Confidentiality - Data collected in a study should remain confidential and anonymous because it is important to protect participants from possible consequences that may result from their data (e.g., some health insurance companies insist that any cognitive degenerative disease diagnosis such as AD be made available to them). Identifying information and individual responses will not be shared with anyone who is not involved in the study.
5. Deception should be avoided, however slight deception is considered acceptable if:
- Participant bias would result from participants knowing the true aims of the study
- The research has potential significant contribution
- It is unavoidable
- The deception does not cause any distress to the participant, including upon being informed of the deception.
6. Debriefing - Any deception must be revealed and justified and participants should leave the study without undue stress. Findings of the research should be made available to participants as soon as possible.
Ethical guidelines for animal research (APA) have also been formulated:
Animal research should try to avoid harm to animals. Any harm caused to animal should be carefully weighed against the research’s potential to provide significant benefit to the health or welfare of humans or other animals, or if it is unavoidable (e.g., electrodes that monitor individual neuronal hippocampal activity in memory tasks). If the procedure would cause pain to humans, it should be assumed that it will cause pain to animals. Animal welfare should be monitored and animals should be euthanised as soon as possible if research causes long term/serious harm and/or affects their ability to live normally and pain-free.
Research studies such as Curtis (1981) and Schachter and Singer (1962) raise significant ethical considerations.
The case study of HM (Curtis, 1981)
HM was man who lost the ability to remember information after a brain operation. The operation was clearly a disaster for HM, although he probably never understood that because he could never learn what happened to him or if he did he would forget it within a couple of minutes. This was a tragedy for HM but an opportunity for any psychologists who became aware of the case. They queued up to study HM’s memory, assessing it with all kinds of tests and checking out a wide range of hypotheses concerning the theoretical distinctions between long-term and short-term memory, and between explicit and implicit memory. They used all sorts of stimuli, including electric shocks and white noise (see review: Corkin, 1984). He has probably had more words written about him than any other case in neurological or psychological history (Ogden & Corkin, 1991).
There were a set of ethical issues with most of the studies performed on HM, which include:
1. Participant Protection – HM was protected from harm during most studies, but obviously not when electric shocks were used. He may have experienced mental distress from dramatic changes in environments, carers and different researchers coming and going.
2. Consent – HM could not be fully informed or give consent to these studies due to his general cognitive functioning. He would not understand the nature and aims of the study and therefore, it was not possible to gain fully informed consent.
3. Withdrawal – HM would not have been able to express any desires to withdraw from the studies as it was likely, his poor memory would mean that he was not aware that he was participating in an experiment after a short period of time had passed.
4. Confidentiality – His identity was kept anonymous as best as possible as 'HM' is just his initials. His real name was in the end revealed, and his case was exposed to the world of psychology and HM was readily identifiable in video footage.
5. Deception and debriefing – HM was not debriefed in most studies study. However, as he did not know that he was being studied, he would not desire a debriefing.
In conclusion, most of the memory studies in which HM participated would not meet the ethical requirements necessary for research into the BLOA and would not be approved by the ethics boards of universities today. The ethical procedures surrounding case study patients today are much more prescribed and regulated.
Schachter and Singer (1962)
Schachter and Singer aimed to test whether cognition (the interpretation of a state of arousal) was needed to interpret and transform ambiguous physiological states into specific emotions. To do this they recruited volunteers to receive a vitamin injection and informed them that they would be participating in vision experiments. None of the participants received a vitamin injection. Three of the four experimental groups received an adrenalin injection (a potent hormone associated with fight or flight response), and the control group a saline injection. In addition to this deception, one of the experimental groups was provided with misinformation about the side effects of the ‘vitamin’ injection (the actual side effects of adrenaline). The next experimental condition saw half of the participants being manipulated into an emotional state of anger (the half into a state of ‘euphoria’ or happiness).
There were a set of ethical issues in this study, which include:
Deception – Participants were deceived about the aims and nature of the study. Participants were told the study aimed to test the effects of the supposed vitamin injection on vision. But it was actually testing the two factor theory of emotion - emotion arises from a combination of cognition and arousal - using adrenaline. All participants were deceived about the injection they were receiving, and were actually administered adrenaline or a placebo (saline solution). Furthermore, some participants were given false side effects of the adrenaline injection that they were given – headache, numbness, itchiness in the feet
However, deception was used because participant bias would result from participants knowing the true nature of the study and the research has potential significant contribution to understanding the causes of emotion.
Consent – Participants were not informed of the true nature and aims of the study before giving consent. They did not know that the study aimed to investigate the two factor theory of emotion. They did not know that they would be receiving adrenaline or placebo injections. Some participants did not know the true effects of the adrenaline injection they were given, they were either given false effects or no effects.
Again, however, being fully informed of the true nature and aims of the study probably would have resulted in participant bias.
Participant protection – Researchers did not protect participants. Participants may have had a harmful reaction to the adrenaline and researchers did not ensure that participants would not experience harm from the injection.
Debriefing – Participants were adequately debriefed and the deception was revealed and justified.
In conclusion, this study does not meet the ethical requirements necessary for research into the BLOA and would not be approved by the ethics boards of universities today. The of the use of a potent hormone adrenaline being administered while simultaneously attempting to induce anger in the participants raises ethical concerns about the protection of participants, as does the significant levels of deception involved. These factors are not likely to be outweighed by the significance of research argument.
Most modern day research into the BLOA is seriously considered in terms of its ethics by both the researchers themselves and by governing oversight by the governors of ethics boards. If deception is to be involved it is required to be slight and protection of participants paramount. We have seen that some previous research into the BLOA has not always met the requirements of the ethical guidelines now required in this field.