Participants' understanding of the process of psychological research: Informed consent

Ethics and Behavior 7 (4):285 – 298 (1997)
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Abstract

Sixty-five undergraduates participating in a wide range of psychological research experiments were interviewed in depth about their research experiences and their views on the process of informed consent. Overall, 32% of research experiences were characterized positively and 41 % were characterized negatively. One major theme of the negative experiences was that experiments were perceived as too invasive, suggesting incomplete explication of negative aspects of research during the informed consent process. Informed consent experiences were viewed positively 80% of the time. However, most of the participants had a limited view of the purpose of informed consent: Less than 20% viewed the process as a decision point. Results suggest a number of common pitfalls to standard informed consent practices that have not generally been recognized. Results are discussed in terms of both ethical and methodological implications. Suggestions for improving the informed consent process are also provided.

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