A socially responsible psychology?

7 Oct

In last week’s blog I  touched on the issue of whether or not a
psychologist has a social responsibility when they are researching ie: if the
findings of their study lead to negative consequences for society are they
still responsible or are they separated from their results the minute it’s
published? And should they be thinking of this before and during their investigation?

For researchers the question lies in where the line is
drawn when they no longer bear responsibility for their research. For example
if a researcher conducts a study and draws from it that African-Caribbean
people are innately designed to be criminals and due to their findings an
increase in discrimination against African-Caribbean’s ensues does the psychologist
bear some of the blame? In this case is it the fault of the psychologist that
social reaction led to discrimination against a social group? My answer is yes,
in my opinion psychologists should always be aware of the social implications
that their findings may have. In my opinion psychologists’ aim should be to
improve society and if they actually cause society to regress ie: take it back
in attitude rather than forward then they bear the responsibility. Surely this
is also the general view in psychology; if it wasn’t then the stringent
measures put in place for protection of participants would be pointless. Albert
Einstein, after helping to develop the atom bomb, is quoted as saying if he’d
have known what it would have been used for before he’d developed it he never
would have done. Having a socially responsible psychology ensures that such a
mistake isn’t made in the psychological field. Yes, I realise that no
psychologist sets out to purposely regress society and that no one can predict
how their study will turn out but being consciously aware of the possible
social implication ensures that issues like discrimination aren’t publicised
because of psychological findings.


7 Responses to “A socially responsible psychology?”

  1. vasianna October 7, 2011 at 8:04 pm #

    Very interesting blog here, I personally believe that all researches done; regardless of future impact upon society, is done purely out of curiousity, and to satisfy this curiousity, a research is done, with the results of the research targeted into improving society. With that in mind, and despite the intial negative impact the results incur; I reckon that in the long run, an improved society and impact is actually generated. Take Albert Einstein’s development of the atomic bomb as an example, perhaps if he never developed the atomic bomb, there would be no advancement with nuclear fusion power, although Albert reported he regretted developing the atomic bomb, perhaps the technological advancement we have today would be 50 years behind, which would also mean millions of lives lost due to the lack of medical advancements with this. Though it would probably be wrong to say that it was a good idea dropping the atomic bombs in Japan. I’m just simply pointing what could have been if the atomic bomb was not developed.

  2. xmel92 October 10, 2011 at 3:41 pm #

    i totally agree with your post because as much as psychological research is important the impact that the results can lead to could potentially be devastating causing harm to many people in society which ethically is incorrect. Therefore if a psychologists research has potential to cause negative effects the research should not be conducted as its the psychologists duty to society to ensure no negative effects are a result of their work. However i do understand that sometimes the researchers intended hypothesis is not proven therefore a negative effect on society can arise this way without the researchers intentions on the other hand if its believed there is a possibility of a negative effect from accidental findings the findings should not be published as surely the whole point of psychology is to improve and help society to benefit from its findings.

  3. sigmafreud October 11, 2011 at 12:03 pm #

    Thank you for the read. However, I have to disagree with your conclusion. What is to say what could be achieved as a result of another’s research? Even if the original research does lead to controversial results. Is it necessary to restrict a piece of research, research that has the potential to be revolutionary and important to the advancement to Psychology due to its controversial nature?
    However, I do agree that thought should be given to the consequences of a given experiments and the results it produces. But not to the point that it is discarded, or discredited on it’s subject. If this started, at what point would we draw the line? Also, research with only positive outcomes would saturate the market, limiting the field. Thanks again.

    • sigmafreud October 11, 2011 at 12:05 pm #

      Having re-read your blog, I’ll take back the “disagree with you conclusion bit”, you do take a neutral outlook on the subject……

  4. jemaher October 11, 2011 at 12:07 pm #

    I do understand the stance in which you are taking in this arguement however I would like to say that it is ultimately a researchers job to further the knowledge of their field. If the findings are negative but will change the way we look at cases in the future then isnt it our obligation to convey this message to others? taking your example, if we did find that certain genetics cause an increase in the liklihood of becoming a criminal then isnt it our duty to protect society by informing those who may be able to minimise the effects of that in some way. I understand that it may create stereotypes but if we are aware of the issue then we could be able to put things in place such as councelling for young children of that race who diplay signs of violence. This will help protect the community by stopping the problem at its source and also aid the individuals as they deserve to have chance to break free of the stereotype that may or may not be in place.

  5. jlawton11 October 11, 2011 at 9:16 pm #

    I agree with what you’re saying about researchers having an obligation to ensure that society moves forward and not back in its attitudes, however if this was to be published, I would hope that researchers would have the tact to say something more along the lines of then ‘being more prone’, than just generally saying they are still violent-although this still invites racisim. I think that before an experiment is conducted, researchers should consider what the implications of the results might be for society.

  6. prpge October 14, 2011 at 9:31 am #

    Hi, just checking your blog settings.

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