Research & Ethics

October 23: Little Albert



  • Are these studies unethical? Why? Would it make a difference if someone consented to the studies? If the participants were adults?
  • How do you prove a theory while also behaving ethically?
  • Does this limit our knowledge? Does it limit it too much?
  • Should we continue using research that was done unethically?

October 28: IRBs, Double-Blind Trials & Professional Norms


Do: Look over TSU’s IRB forms and think about how the ethical issues and professional norms discussed here are put into practice. Are there things missing from the IRB forms? Are there things that don’t make sense?

October 30: WEIRD Research



Do: Pick a topic and look through several recent studies on that topic; what kind of research subjects do the papers involve? Do the authors comment on this? Should they?


  • Do WEIRD subjects bias psychological research? Are there topics where this is a big problem? Are there topics where it isn’t?
  • Why are particular research subjects more common than others?
  • What gets left out of the acronym that might also be important?
  • How could we get around this?
  • Have you ever participated in a study?

November 4: Titicut Follies (1967) & Patient Privacy

Watch: Titicut Follies (you can also watch the film on Kanopy.)

Write: Your final film blog.


  • This documentary was initially banned due to violations of patient privacy. If patients didn’t consent to being filmed, is it an ethical violation for the documentary to be screened?
  • If the patients can’t consent to being filmed, can they consent to how they’re being treated at Bridgewater?
  • Is the knowledge that the public gains by seeing the documentary and the conditions at Bridgewater more important than the patients’ rights to privacy?
  • How do we resolve ethical conundrums like this?
  • What kinds of treatments are used at Bridgewater? How do they line up with things we’ve read in class?
  • What kind of emotions do you feel watching the documentary? Who do you feel empathy for?
  • Does it matter that these patients are at a forensic hospital and are criminals? Do some people cede their right to humane treatment? How differently do you feel about Little Albert versus the patients at Bridgewater? What if you knew what their crimes were?
  • Compare the documentary to Nelly Bly’s expose:
    • To what extent has the asylum changed?
    • To what extent has new technology changed the ethical questions involved in each? Was it a problem or a violation of anyone’s privacy for Nelly Bly to write “Ten Days in a Madhouse”? Can privacy be violated in an investigative report or is it a product of film technology and thus a modern problem?
  • Compare the three films we’ve watched. Are they similar or different? Think about genre, intentions, etc.