Describe the impact of the studies in terms of the effects on the human participants.

Write a 5–7-page assessment in which you examine the controversy related to research and ethics in the field of social psychology.

It is essential to be able to critically analyze the research methods used in studies, in order to weigh the validity of the conclusions or recommendations.


By successfully completing this assessment, you will demonstrate your proficiency in the following course competencies and assessment criteria:

•   Competency 1: Apply information literacy and research skills to locate scholarly information in the field of social psychology.

•                     Use valid, scholarly research resources relevant to the field of social psychology.

•   Competency 4: Examine the research methods frequently used in the study of social psychology.

•                     Describe the impact of controversial research studies on the human participants.

•   Competency 5: Examine controversial research studies in social psychology from an ethical standpoint.

•                     Explain how controversial research studies contributed to the development of ethical standards in the field of psychology.

•                     Develop evidence-based arguments for and against controversial research studies in the field of social psychology.

•                     Describe what controversial research studies revealed about conformity and obedience to authority.

•   Competency 6: Apply critical thinking skills to resolve conflicts and issues in the field of social psychology.

•                     D
etermine whether knowledge gained justifies controversial research studies in the field of social psychology.

•   Competency 7: Communicate in a manner that is scholarly, professional, and consistent with expectations for professionals in the field of psychology.

•                     Write coherently to support a central idea with correct grammar, usage, and mechanics as expected of a psychology professional.

Use APA format and style.



Is conformity good or bad? Are people willing to hurt one another just because an authority told them to? Some of the most fascinating research results about human behavior were intending to answer these very questions. The results on the topics of social conformity and obedience to authority revealed some disturbing revelations about human behavior and about potential harm to participants in research. The studies and their results had tremendous implications for the field on how we conduct research—and on how we understand the influence of social pressure and leadership. Because of the significant implications in both research and application, these studies have been some of the most controversial and hotly debated topics in psychology.




To deepen your understanding, you are encouraged to consider the questions below and discuss them with a fellow learner, a work associate, an interested friend, or a member of the business community.

•   Is deception always necessary when conducting research in social psychology with human participants?

Do the insights gained from research justify deceiving people?



Suggested Resources

The following optional resources are provided to support you in completing the assessment or to provide a helpful context. For additional resources, refer to the Research Resources and Supplemental Resources in the left navigation menu of your courseroom.

Library Resources

The following e-books or articles from the Capella University Library are linked directly in this course. Note: Some of the articles listed are fairly old and are included here because they are considered seminal works in the field.

•   Bandura, A., Ross, D., & Ross, S. A. (1961). Transmission of aggression through imitation of aggressive models. The Journal of Abnormal and Social Psychology63(3), 575–582.

•   Bandura, A., Ross, D., & Ross, S. A. (1963). Imitation of film-mediated aggressive models. The Journal of Abnormal and Social Psychology66(1), 3–11.

•   Becker-Blease, K. A., & Freyd, J. J. (2006). Research participants telling the tr
uth about their lives: The ethics of asking and not asking about abuse. American Psychologist61(3), 218–226.

•   Benham, B. (2008). The ubiquity of deception and the ethics of deceptive research. Bioethics22(3), 147–156.

•   Boynton, M. H., Portnoy, D. B., & Johnson, B. T. (2013). Exploring the ethics and psychological impact of deception in psychological research. IRB: Ethics & Human Research35(2), 7–13.Crano, W. D. (2000). Milestones in the psychological analysis of social influence. Group Dynamics: Theory, Research, and Practice4(1), 68–80.

•   Buckle, J. L., Dwyer, S. C., & Jackson, M. (2010). Qualitative bereavement research: Incongruity between the perspectives of participants and research ethics boards. International Journal of Social Research Methodology13(2), 111–125.

•   Guadagno, R. E., Muscanell, N. L., Rice, L. M., & Roberts, N. (2013). Social influence online: The impact of social validation and likability on compliance. Psychology of Popular Media Culture2(1), 51–60.

•   Haney, C., & Zimbardo, P. (1998). The past and future of U.S. prison policy: Twenty-five years after the Stanford Prison Experiment. American Psychologist53(7), 709–727.

•   Heerdink, M. W., van Kleef, G. A., Homan, A. C., & Fischer, A. H. (2013). On the social influence of emotions in groups: Interpersonal effects of anger and happiness on conformity versus deviance. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology105(2), 262–284.

•   Horcajo, J., Petty, R. E., & Briñol, P. (2010). The effects of majority versus minority source status on persuasion: A self-validation analysis. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology99(3), 498–512.

•   Juritzen, T. I., Grimen, H., & Heggen, K. (2011). Protecting vulnerable research participants: A Foucault-inspired analysis of ethics committees. Nursing Ethics18(5), 640–650.

•   McDonald, K. E., Kidney, C. A., & Patka, M. (2013). “You need to let your voice be heard”: Research participants views on research. Journal of Intellectual Disability Research57(3), 216–225.

•   Milgram, S. (1963). Behavioral study of obedience. The Journal of Abnormal and Social Psychology, 67(4), 371–378.

•   Milgram, S. (1964). Group pressure and action against a person. The Journal of Abnormal and Social Psychology69(2), 137–143.

•   Milgram, S. (1965). Liberating effects of group pressure. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology1(2), 127–134.

•   Pascual-Leone, A., Singh, T., & Scoboria, A. (2010). Using deception ethically: Practical research guidelines for researchers and reviewers. Canadian Psychology/Psychologie Canadienne51(4), 241–248.

•   Zimbardo, P. G. (1974). On ‘obedience to authority‘. American Psychologist29(7), 566–567.

•   Voisin, D., & Fointiat, V. (2013). Reduction in cognitive dissonance according to normative standards in the induced compliance paradigm. Social Psychology44(3), 191–195.

•   Wilson, C. M., & Christensen, B. K. (2012). Ethical issues relevant to the assessment of suicide risk in nonclinical research settings. Crisis33(1), 54–59.





To prepare for this assessment, locate scholarly articles on Milgrams studies on obedience to authority and Zimbardos Stanford Prison experiment on the power of social roles. These two pivotal studies provide the basis for this assessment.

Examine the controversy related to research and ethics in the field of social psychology. Consider the information you located on Milgrams studies on obedience to authority and Zimbardos Stanford Prison experiment on the power of social roles. Include the following in your assessment:

•   Describe what these studies revealed about conformity and obedience to authority.

•   Explain the benefi
ts from these research studies. What knowledge or insight was gained?

•   Describe the impact of the studies in terms of the effects on the human participants.

•   Explain how these (and other) controversial research studies have shaped the principles and standards in the current APA Ethical Principles of Psychologists and Code of Ethics.

•   Develop evidence-based arguments both for and against these types of controversial research studies.

•   Do you think that the information that was obtained was worth the risks to the human subjects? Explain and support your position.

Your submitted assessment should be 5–7 pages in length, excluding title page and reference page, and use references from at least three scholarly resources. Be sure to follow APA guidelines for format and style.

Additional Requirements

•   Include a title page and reference page.

•   At least three current scholarly or professional resources.

•   APA format.

•   Times New Roman font, 12 point.

•   Double spaced.

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