Ethical considerations related to research studies at the biological level of analysis include both physical and mental protection of the participant, consent of the participant, confidentiality between the researcher and the participant and a right for the participant to withdraw from the study. The biological level of analysis states that all cognitions, emotions and behaviours have a physiological basis. Ethical considerations in research studies must be abided in order to ensure that participants, either humans or animals, are not harmed during the process of the study and that the research conducted is ethically valid and acceptable.
The two research studies that have ethical consideration issues are "David Reimer" (Money, 1974) and "Adrenaline and Emotion" (Schachter and Singer, 1962). The first research study that faced ethical issues was the study of David Reimer, by Dr. John Money (1974). The aim of Money's study was to prove that nurture determined gender identity, and not nature. Bruce Reimer, twin of Brian, had his penis accidentally burnt off during circumcision at 7 months of age. Bruce was taken to see Dr. John Money, who suggested that Bruce have a sex change.
John Money interviewed the twins once a year in order to be able to support his theory that all people are born gender neutral and that it is the environment that determines gender behaviour. Bruce was raised as a female and was named Brenda, but at 14 years of age was told she was born a boy, and she decided to live as a boy named David. Money found that as David grew up, he began displaying masculine behaviour which caused issues at school. This concluded that gender development is determined by chromosomes and hormones, unlike what Dr. Money had theorized.
As in depth as this study was, it had many ethical issues. The first ethical issue is the informed consent of the participant. Dr. Money published scientific works using the case study of David Reimer to support his theory, however, neither the twins nor the parents gave any consent to the twins being part of a study. The second ethical issue is withdrawal from the experiment, and since David did not know he was part of a research study, he was not informed of his right to withdraw himself from it.
The third ethical issue was confidentiality. In his publications, Dr. Money revealed the identity and the research study of the twins, which clearly violates their rights as participants. Another violation of ethics was that Money deceived the participant and he did not protect him. Money deceived the Reimer family by not informing them of the true aim behind his study as well as not informing the parents that their children were in a study. He also allowed David to believe he was a female for most of his childhood. Money did not protect David since he caused him physical harm by castrating him and forcing him to live as a girl.
Mental harm was also inflicted as Brenda grew up being confused and was bullied. The mental harm that was experienced due to Money's study lead to the suicide of both the twins. These violations of ethical considerations made the research study harmful, inaccurate and eventually, fatal. The second research study that violated ethical considerations was the study of adrenaline and emotion, by Schachter and Singer (1962). The aim of their study was to show that similar bodily responses can be labelled differently, depending on a person's situation and also that emotion arises from a combination of cognition and arousal.
The experiment was done on 184 male college students. Half the participants were divided into the adrenaline group and the other half received a placebo that had no effect on behaviour. Participants who received adrenaline were divided into 3 subgroups. Group 1 was told nothing about the side effects of the adrenaline. Group 2 was told that the substance would cause itching and numbness and group 3 was told that the injection might increase their heart rate and give them shaky hands (the actual effects of adrenaline injections).
Then, the participants were taken to a room and told to wait in pairs. However, the participants were unaware that they had been paired with a confederate, who was actually working with the researchers. This raises an ethical issue because the confederates may have tried to manipulate or influence the participants' behaviour, thus making the results of the study inaccurate. The results of the study showed that the participants who didn't receive accurate information about their reaction to the injection began imitating the behaviours of the confederates.
On the other hand, the participants who were told the truth were uninfluenced by the behaviour of the confederates. The conclusion suggested that the participants who had no understanding of their reaction because they were not told about it began feeling and acting the way they had been told they would. This supported Schachter and Singer's theory, however, their results were shown to be imprecise and inaccurate since they meddled with the participants and attempted to influence their behaviour, thus not being able to see their real reactions and behaviours.
The only reason their study went as planned was because they had many ethical issues. Firstly, they deceived the participants by not telling them about the true aims of the study. The participants were told that the study aimed to test the effects of Suproxin on vision. Schachter and Singer also deceived the participants about which injection they were receiving, participants were told they were receiving Suproxin when they were really receiving either adrenaline or a placebo. To add, 2/3 groups were given false effects of the adrenaline they were injected with.
The second ethical violation was consent. Participants did not know that the study aimed to investigate the two factor theory of emotion nor did they know that they would be receiving adrenaline or placebo. They were lied to about the side effects of the injections. The third violation was participant protection. The researchers did not take into consideration that some of the participants may have had a harmful reaction to the adrenaline nor did they ensure the full safety of the participant's health after they had been injected.
The most vital part of any research study is not its results nor its participants, but its ethical codes and judgments. It is important for researchers to know when their experiment violates the ethical laws, but in this case, the researchers of both studies did not take into consideration the harm that could be caused if ethical considerations were not taken. In both experiments, the lack of ethics caused confusion and mental harm to the participants to the extent that it lead to David Reimer's (study 1) suicide.
Researchers must take into account their participants' welfare before anything, however, Money, Schachter and Singer did not. It is known that research studies at the biological level of analysis include many unethical processes, and the most important ethical considerations to take are protection of participants, informed consent, withdrawal, confidentiality and deception. In both studies, all of the ethical codes were violated, with obvious side effects. In research studies at the BLOA, eclectic approaches must always be used and ethical considerations must be followed in order to have carried out an ethical research.