Participants' understanding of the process of psychological research: Debriefing

Ethics and Behavior 10 (1):13 – 25 (2000)
Abstract
In a broad-based study of experiences in psychological research, 65 undergraduates participating in a wide range of psychological experiments were interviewed in depth. Overall findings demonstrated that participants hold varying views, with only 32% of participants characterizing their experiences as completely positive. Participants' descriptions of their debriefing experiences suggest substantial variability in the content, format, and general quality of debriefing practices. Just over 40% of the debriefing experiences were viewed favorably. Positive debriefing experiences were described as including a thorough explanation of the study and detailed information concerning the broader relevance of the experiment to the field of psychology. The most common complaint, characterizing 28.8% of the responses, was that the debriefing was unclear and that insufficient information was provided. Participants' views of psychological research and the discipline of psychology were also elicited. Results are discussed in terms of ethical and methodological implications.
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