Question

Researchers interested in studying stress gave 150 high school seniors a very difficult math exam. After the test, the researchers measured stress by examining physiological changes with extensive medical testing that included drawing blood samples. When the test was over, they shared the results with the students but did not publish individual data. Explain whether or not this study conforms to each of the ethical standards: • Informed consent • Debriefing • Confidentiality • Protection from harm

Solution

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It is not clear that the researchers obtained informed consent from their subjects. To do so, they would have told the students that they would be taking a test and that afterwards they would have to undergo some medical tests, including blood draws.

The researchers seem to meet the standard of debriefing, since they inform the students of the results of the test. They would also have to inform the students of the nature of the research (i.e. studying stress).

The researchers meet the criterion of confidentiality, since they do not publish individual data.

It is possible that the researchers meet the criterion of protection from “greater than usual” harm, since most students should expect to take difficult tests and to have their blood drawn in their everyday lives. If, however, the researchers added elements to the study—like telling students that they will not get into college or that they have lower-than-average intelligence if they perform poorly on the test—the threshold of “greater than usual” harm might be exceeded.

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