Covert observation: Needed or Ethically Unsound…….You Decide

As a trainee psychologist i often ponder  the question does the end justify  the means when conducting research. Is it ethically right to stretch the nerves and break the boundaries of your participants trust through deception in order to obtain data or should this ludicrous practice be stopped.

this question is often at  the fore front of my mind when i am thinking about the option of covert observations.  it has been noted by individuals such as Roger Homan the possible advantages of sch methods. he described this particular method as  “pragmatic expedient, ideally non reactive way to gie access to a secret transaction” as  the participant wa  free from disturbance and inhibition” . Mr Hammond states a valid and accurate point as covert observations I general do not harm the individuals being observed but rather draw on on methods in order to see natural behaviours which may not be presented within the confines of an experiment. although I still feel disconcerted at the prospect of decieving participants in order to obtain valid and reliable results.  http://jstor.org/590062

 One individual wo shares my view is Alison Lurie. Lurie states that ” particular ironic version of the means justify ends argument with an excuse that we were seeking truth , we were proposing to lie ourselves blind to the truth seekers ” . bold statements like this highlight the fact that it is never okay to decieve your participants through covert methods no matter the gain you may achieve scientific progress it may hinder.  Further more C.D Herrara states that ” deception rampant in society…… methods no more immoral than the behaviour it prevails …. morally indistinguishable from deception.” http://jstor.org/590062  http:/onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111.j.1468-4446..1999.00331.x/abstract

strong poyant  arguments such as this have led me to believe that however helpful covert analysis may be in  helping individuals observe naturalistic behaviours another thing, it still counts as deception as the participant’s are often often unaware tat  they are partaking in n experiments thus  breaking ethical guidelines such as the right to with draw and the  need for full informed consent.

But in the eyes of some “the goal is justifiable”; Denzin 1968.  ccj.sagepub.com/content/http:1111.12/2/97.short

till next time

xoxo

psud31