Research ethics may be annoying, but they are a necessary evil. As scientists it is our responsibility to protect those who we are testing on; however do TV producers have to live by the same rules. Derren Brown is a prime example of someone who produces and creates effects in his ‘experiments’ that would not be considered ethically acceptable in scientific research. One example of this is his stunt known as the zombie game (Video). In this he apparently induced an individual into a catatonic trance through a video arcade game in a bar. He subsequently moved him into a room where he was attacked by actors dressed as zombies. This caused a stir in the media who asked whether it was fair to pull a stunt such as this on an individual who was not even aware of it.
Know it is kind of expected that some TV shows will have a much more lax ethics procedure than a researcher. Even big brother would have some trouble getting through ethics approval in a university. But is it right that a TV show can reproduce past experiments that have already been denounced as no longer ethical. The obvious two are zbardo and milgram. Both of which have been reproduced by different TV organisations (http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/entertainment/1986889.stm, http://www.time.com/time/arts/article/0,8599,1972981,00.html). Although these may not have been considered unethical at the time, ethics are a constantly changing and now both of these studies are considered to be unethical and cannot be replicated (at least without severe restrictions).
Although they may not be ethically sound, do results from TV shows have scientific significance? One example of this recently was Derren Browns hypno spy stunt. In case you didn’t see it, Derren brown was able to convince an unaware participant to shoot Steven Fry under the influence of hypnosis. This is something many hypnosis experts believed was not possible, and gave credence to the myth of Russian sleeper agents from the cold war. But do these results have scientific significance? Assuming the results were real, and not due to any form of behind the scenes trickery, these could be a significant case study into the extents of hypnosis. But many academics would immediately reject it as having little or no real relevance as it was not from an academic source, and was not conducted in lab conditions. So why doesn’t someone recreate these in lab conditions? Ethics. Because universities and other institutions are constrained by ethics they could not replicate this. The potential for psychological harm would make it almost impossible to get approval.
In this case it may seem that ethics are holding us back, but the truth is their not. Ethics are an important part of ensuring participants, researchers and institutions are protected; and although TV may not need ethics to the same extent, is it possible they are putting participants at risk? And is it really worth that just for something interesting to watch on TV?
According to Wikipedia, Economics is defined as the social science that analyses the distribution, production and consumption of goods and services. For example price of products can be determined using a demand and supply, and changes in these can predict changes in the price we will pay. So what has this got to do with psychology? Previously economics was led by rational choice models, meaning that an individual acts as if balancing costs against benefits will cause people to arrive at action that maximizes personal advantage. However this is not always the case, such as why people make impulsive choices when it comes to money.
Another example of this loss aversion; the theory of loss aversion is that people will strongly prefer avoiding loss compared to making a gain. This can be demonstrated using a coin toss game. In one game you start with a pound and either gain one or don’t based on the outcome. In the other you start with two pounds and based on the coin toss either keeps both or only one. A rational method of analysing this would tell us that there is no difference, the odds are the same and therefore people will not have a preference between the two. However due to the effects of loss aversion people will almost always choose the one that has no risk of losing anything.
Economics is a large part of the modern world, it changes so much in our society. But all of this comes down to our understanding of money. The ability to trade, and to use money as an intermediary is something that only humans can do, no other animals have been seen to trade items between each other; however some people have found that they can be taught too. Keith Chen, a behavioural economist, managed to teach a group of capuchin monkeys how to use tokens as currency. After initially teaching them they could change tokens for food. He taught them to take a certain amount of tokens and choose how many they one trade for grapes and how many for apple; suggesting a basic understanding of budgeting. He was also able to introduce a concept of fluctuation in prices, and found that they would respond in the same way as humans would when presented with similar price changes. Such as buying more of cheaper items, or paying more for items they had a higher preference for. They also accidentally found that these monkeys would do other things similar to humans; such as stealing and even in one instance paying for sex. When these monkeys were offered the same gambling task as described above they found very similar results to those found in human trials. Demonstrating that money, as a concept, that can be learnt and is not totally a human trait.
This suggests that the understanding of money is something that is learn able and adaptive for a species. It’s also part of our evolution and a large part of what makes us human. So economics is used to analyse how we spend, the impact our spending has, and the knock on effects of all of these. This can affect huge parts of our lives from our student loans to buying houses. However, in economics, there is little thought given as to why these things happen and how individual differences can cause huge impacts; as we have seen recently. This is what has created a new field of behavioural economics. This studies the social, emotional and cognitive effects on economic decisions. Therefore it seems that bringing psychology into economics could improve the ability to predict fluctuations more accurately and to help us understand why people make the economic decisions that they do.
Science has, and probably always will be, full of long, complicated words. I’m sure we have all been in a situation where we have tried to read an article for whatever reason, only to be left feeling more confused than when you started. I’m going through this right now trying to understand some articles for my project. But is this use of complicated words and systems really required, or is it just a pompous remnant of science past. Even though it does sometimes seem that scientists use long words just to make them seem intelligent, i believe it is necessary and an important part of science.
For example If i was to say i had a funny picture of a Ailuropoda melanoleuca you probably wouldnt be expecting to see one of these cuddly little fellas. Scientific classifications in biology is a prime example of complicated terms in science being different from the standard term, but also why they are necessary. By using this classification biologists are able to name all living organisms specifically based on genes. Is this really required though? is calling it a giant panda not good enough? Classification allows for better accuracy and specificity than just referring to them as the common name, but another advantage in that these names are also universal. Anyone in the scientific comunity that studies that area of biology will always use this system, meaning that people who are studying this area can share specific knowledge easily worldwide.
This also leads onto another point. Imagine trying to write a project or an essay, even at this level, in language that was simple enough for some one who had not studied psychology before to understand, and still keep it within the word limit. By using what may seem as complicated scientific language scientists are able to keep articles shorter and more concise for those who read them, as long as the reader has prior knowledge. Imagine trying to explain to some one how to play a musical instrument. For some one who has never picked one up before you would have to explain how to hold it, how to make a proper sound, how to read music and so on. This would take a very long time and allot of effort. However if you were explaining this to some one who had the prior knowledge of that instrument it could be as easy as telling them the chords or the sheet music.
Therefore i believe that science requires this scientific language, even if it can be annoyingly confusing. Even if this is only true of the preliminary publications. Primarily because the majority of people who read them are people involved in the field and therefore, in theory, be able to understand and interpret it. So therefore scientists writing a journal article are writing too their target demographic which is other scientists. And if the material is interesting or groundbreaking enough to be of public interest then it is up to people who want to pass the knowledge to re-interpret it for the demographic that they are reaching out too. A scientist that is writing a book about psychology aimed at non psychologist would not use the same language if the book was aimed at other psychologists. Howevre this could have the potential to lead to misinterpretation of some findings, such as in the media.