Monday, October 31, 2005

Psychology is fun! how about unnecessarily hurting people?

Now I'm one to be serious all the time. In fact, I tend not to be serious at all the wrong times, which is probably not the best quality for a future psychologist. (Warning, I may go the entire way here without saying some moronic joke. Apologies.). Perhaps it is just because I am not used to seeing certain things inherent to this profession, perhaps I am not desensitized to the mess that the human race creates for its self, but I must say that what I saw during experiments were more than a little disturbing.

Before I get to the nasty stuff I saw during the recent psych experiment, I would just like to add something to my previous bitch-fest. As much as I enjoyed ripping my school and the teachers in it, I have to say that I am impressed at myself as to how much I have actually learned in just four years. Almost every client I we saw during my recent internship had something that I was completely comfortable with: sever depression, OCD, Schizophrenia (catatonic type), schizotypal, etc. Granted, these are not pretty common things, but, as my intern doc said, most undergrad psych students wouldn't have the slightest clue about such things because they don't get to learn about them until their masters. The detailed knowledge of clinical disorders and treatment options that I brought to the table were thanks to, in my opinion, a wonderful psych school. Awwwwwwwww Shiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiit.

Anyways, the amusing stuff from the experiment is as follows:

This one group of students were measuring some unknown variable showed their sample, as their letter to participant says “visual stimuli with music” and “counting of the red dots that appeared” no sweat.. sounds rather straight forward.

The choice of music was some hardcore rock music type of voice that kept going “bitch bitch…” while the video showed shots of people self mutilating, people drinking snake blood and then puking, and people with medical diseases.

Ok.. excuse me for my complete lack of humor about this experiment, but it is becoming apparent that a majority of the participants felt strongly about the content of the video.

as much as I would like to say that it was entirely careless of the student carrying out the experiment I have come the following conclusions.

1. Is the Ethics Review Committee Asleep?
The ERB, or etchics review board, of the university, the same one that is quick to reject students research proposals that explore depression type studies due to its intrusive nature, had actually reviewed the material and approved the experiment. I would like to know, if the ERB had actually checked the contents of the video before saying ok? further, is ERB aware of the context of the viewing of the video? The ‘violent-like’ song with disgusting visual presentations of other human beings, is unbecoming of a psychologist, even for the best of intentions.

2. Don’t Students Have Brains of Their Own?
What kind of absolute morons, would in the first place act so irresponsibly? Don’t these students have brains of their own? the issue really surrounds the fact that the university does not screen the kind of kids it enrolls. I would imagine that that students who have no respect for experimental ethics should not be learning psychology at all.

3. Advice to See a Counselor Just Does NOT Cut it
What’s the deal with asking participants to see counselors if ‘the experiment traumatized you’. I find this kind of a generic debriefing statement utterly disrespectful and irresponsible. As leaders in psychology, are we teaching the new generation of psychologists, that it is ok to traumatize people, if we provide adequate treatment services afterwards? What happened to INFORMED CONCENT? In my opinion, there was no mention of the type of video, hence NO informed consent.

4. Walk Out:
as students, i doubt that we are aware of the implications of supporting such moronic experiments. It is perfectly within our rights are human participants to walk out. Though this may not be the culture within out system, I strongly urge that it be made one. I apologize to the rest, for failing to walk out that experiment. I should have been me, who started the trend. But, now that I am more sensitive to experiments that violate my rights, those of you who are planning to piss me off, better get ready to account for participant mortality and VIOLENCE.

5.Who’s on ERB?
Why are the meetings of ERB such a closely help secret? Why cant the body be more transparent in process? I suggest that the university take necessary steps to make sure that members of the ERB become truly aware of what’s going on. I would like to the psychology student council be invited to sit in ERB committee discussions. Besides, wouldn’t students know what’s best for them?

So what is the moral of this story? If you happen to be at my university one day and just so happen to see a dashing young psychology student handsomely walking around encouraging you to participate in an experiment that does not give you informed consent, just say NO.


mythsn_legends said...

From the looks of it, I think ERB has been slacking in their filtering of experimental proposals.

I think inviting psychology students to be in the ERB meetings is a good idea. Senior psych students should be given this opportunity.

Steph said...

Hmm..I'm not sure how senior psyc students and psyc students council can help in deciding what's ethical and what's not..i think u need a mature brain (or maybe few) to decide on that.

I can't comment much as I wasn't present for the experiment conducted. Judging from what is written, I would probably as well, walk out of the experimental room.

just some thoughts of my own...what about using involuntary animals as subjects in research? Eg. Single recordings in macaque monkeys can provide very useful information for studying the brain, but I still find it hard to understand how a person can even think of sacrificing these innocent monkeys for our own benefits. Informed consent?? yea..monkeys read, i see..hah!

Jacky said...

Man, U really have a love/hate relationship with our UC, huh? I can't even phantom the idea of dedicating posts to college over & over again. I love myself too much that I've never failed to blog 'bout nothing bout: ME!

Anonymous said...

yeah.. i was in the experiment too.. boy, was it horrific! nearly cried, mann..

by the way, and who would that 'dashing young psychology student' be..? ;)

heh heh..

Anonymous said...

I remember as a kid i used to love watching the faces of death series with my friends. There's certainly a shock appeal to it, but to say that such materials results in shocking and traumatising effects to the extend that its ethically wrong its rather over the top, no ?


astrorat said...

Dear D,

I felt it important that a clear line needs to be drawn between proper informed consent and enforcing personal values on human experimental participants in psychology. What may seem to you as a perfectly harmless tv series, may in fact be very traumatizing to someone else. This would be specially true in conducting cross cultural psychology, where norms and values are typically very different.

As a responsible psychologist (fake or otherwise) i would not be going overboard in highlighting the sever ethical implications of violating said principles.

I thank you for your very thought provoking comment. They are exactly what makes being scientist, rewarding!



Anonymous said...

agree totally with your comments on the experiment. it was horrid. the worst experiement ive been in so far. horrible. i wish i made a stand to walk out too. horrible. shudder....


Dr. Deborah Serani said...

I remember so many of "those experiments" from grad school where ethics were stretched in the name of course requirements. I remember not taking part and almost sparring with the TA at the time.