Ethics, Theory Construction, and Compliance

Cover of "The APA Dictionary of Psycholog...
Cover of The APA Dictionary of Psychology

Ethics and Compliance

The APA Dictionary of Psychology (2007) defines the IRB as the, “abbreviation for INSTITUTIONAL REVIEW BOARD” (VandenBos) which quite honestly was not a term in my vocabulary before I began the PhD program. As it relates to the content area of  research in multicultural ethics, Ford (2006) establishes a connection between Ethics, Values, and Theory Construction, by stating, “Behavioral research is generally conducted to test specific hypothesis arising from psychological theories” which posits a corollary construct between what has been written in theory to what is done in practice for researchers. Therefore, and assumption is made that compliance lies somewhere between the theoretical didache of research and the utility found in the real life experience of practice.

One of the challenges that can be identified in the work of researchers is balance.  In a psychological research program the task is is to find common ground for the work of research within the ethical constructs of acceptable ethical principles is found in ethical codes, philosophical assumptions, and application of acceptable norms. Therefore, there are principles to guide the work of ethical research. The principles found in the code of ethics reflect generally accepted and identifiable area where violations can be possible.  Within the principles there are philosophical assumption that are expressed in way principle address concerns.  The intent is to speak to the needs of people who are made of diverse populations and cultural representations  Principles inform problem solving approaches with information to clarify reason and develop approaches to clarify what “should”or “ought” to be done in resolving a conflict.

The defining task is to identify the challenge and provide an assumptive reasoning that describes a process that is indicated; given that all things are equal in a perfect world.  The process describes the fundamental thinking process that guide understanding involved which calls attention to an underlying area of competence for psychological research, expressed in a design resolve a conflict.  Therefore, what is contained in a formula for response declares the basic principles that are a concerned couple with assumptions about how value is expressed in rank of importance i.e., the code of ethics, meaning, and intent of the ethical code.  In addition, the theoretical connection of what research means to the study of psychology is also firmly established in being able to understand, articulate, and connect the philosophical assumptions that inform ethical decisions in a reflective process that connects the philosophy to the lived experience of the researcher in psychology.  Ford (2006) describes the impact of the process upon the outcome of research by saying, “Researcher’s personal values might affect not only what issues they study, but also how they evaluate the evidence (i.e., data) they obtain” (p. 222)  As a result, the challenge can be understood in a development of a response that is informed not only by principles of facts, but also by the dynamic relationship of a developing interaction of the person and values of the researcher upon the object and persons involved in research.

Ultimately, the buck must stop somewhere in decision making and that is where the determination is made to determine what is acceptable.  In Ford (2006), suitable standards are decided by, the IRB [who] is the official entity that reviews research proposals involving human participants to determine whether the studies are ethically acceptable” (223).  Therefore, the challenge that is present for researchers is to maintain diligence in understanding, evaluation, and application of acceptable, normative approaches to guarantee that participants are not endangered or harmed in the implementation of research in the practice of psychological inquiry.

The challenge of psychologists in maintaining fidelity to the principle of Principle A: Beneficence and Nonmaleficence (Ethical Principles of Psychologists and Code of Conduct 2010) is how to respond with a meaningful thoughtful method of evaluating a broad range of possible ethical area of concern.  The principle places emphasis upon a need to utilize a thought process that utilizes a provisional review process that focuses upon principle, process, and potential.  An important component to the research done by psychologist is to engage in research that is based in a scientific validation process  which establishes empirical credibility to research.  In addition having a theoretical approach to validate ethical balance, provides a foundation that enhances evidence based approach to the methodology in the work of research.

This can is realized within populations, groups, or individual to whom measuring risk is a very subjective process. Therefore, because there are times when ethical responses are difficult to measure, “researchers (and IRB’s) have an ethical obligation to calibrate the standards that will qualify a ‘minimal risk’” (225) which places a process in hand that goes beyond principle, philosophy and personal values, to a consensus of ideas and opinion which adds validity to apply what is known, understood and believed into a cogent and reasonable argument that is well supported.

What is observable and knowable about Ethics, theory construction, and compliance is that the code of ethics does in deed provide principle that can address a significant number of ethical concern, philosophical systems of thought can provide a rationale for decision making, but compliance is not always a clearly defined issue when dealing with areas that the code and philosophies do not adequately address to protect participants from harm.  So the value that is offered by the IRB is that it adds another voice that is constructed of expertise in the field of research that can ask the questions that can provide substantive consideration to what is in the best interest of research among psychology professionals


Ethical Principles of Psychologists and Code of Conduct 2010. (n.d.). Retrieved August 29, 2010, from Amercan Psychological Association:

Ford, G. (2006). Ethical reasoning for mental health professionals. Thousand Oaks, California, USA: Sage Publications.

VandenBos, G. R. (Ed.). (2007). APA dictionary of psychology. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.


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