2.95 Use of humans (old)

Tens of thousands of us enroll in research experiments every year. In many cases, participants will benefit profoundly from their experience. On the other hand, some will be harmed. How do we minimize the risks to each individual, insure that moral rights are protected, and maximize overall well-being?

Complete the following assignments as required by your instructor.

1. U.S. National Institutes of Health, National Cancer Institute's "Human Participant Protections Education for Research Teams" tutorial. Access the tutorial by clicking on the assignment labelled "NCI hppert tutorial" on your left. Log in, then complete all modules: History, The Basics, Informed Consent, IRB Review, Ongoing Protections and International Research. When finished, you will receive a Completion Certificate. Email a screen shot of it to your instructor.

2. NC State tutorial. Instructions: To to www.ncsu.edu/sparcs/tutorial/intro.php. Look for "Affiliation Status." Login as follows:

NC State students and faculty: Enter your Unity ID and password.

Others: Change drop-down menu from "NC State University" to "Guest access."

Look for "COMPLIANCE." Click on "Human Subjects"

NC State students: When you have completed the Human Subjects module, return to this screen. Then proceed to the next assignments, Milgram IRB. The Milgram case will be discussed in class; come prepared both with your opinion as to whether you would allow Milgram's project to proceed and your reasons for your decision.

3. Milgram Institutional Review Board (IRB). Focuses on ethical issues involved in using humans in social science research and includes an interactive exercise in which you play the role of an IRB member assessing a psychology proposal from a researcher named Milgram.

PART ONE: Imagine you are a faculty member and a member of the IRB at Yale University in 1962. Your committee receives a request for approval of a study by an assistant professor of Psychology at Yale, Stanley Milgram. First, carefully review Milgram's IRB proposal, then review the Informed Consent Form Milgram proposes to use with subjects.

Decide whether to vote to allow Milgram to proceed with his experiment. Come to class prepared to give three reasons for your decision.

We are now at stage two. Your IRB has approved Milgram's experiments and he conducted the trials. His work has been successful, he reports, and he would like to conduct a follow-up study. He approaches the IRB for permission. You are concerned that some of his subjects may be subjected to inappropriate levels of stress. Milgram has filmed all of the trials, so you review the films.

In class: Discuss three Milgram video clips:

Introduction (6 min.) Introduces Milgram, the experiment protocol, the teacher and learner. At 2:30 surveys shock box instrument panel.

Complete (17 min.) White golf shirt shocks all way to 450 volts, continues at that maximum level until experimenter ends session.

Refuse (5 min.) Checked shirt refuses.

PART TWO: After watching the tape of Experiment 5, you and other members of the IRB note that even though most subjects are obedient, a few are defiant. You also note deep evidence of tension in many subjects. "There were in some subjects striking reactions to emotional strain."

Despite the increasingly strenuous objections from the learner and the references to heart pain, 65% of the subjects administered the maximum shock. This was the same as in "remote" no feedback classroom version, although 25% stopped shocking the learner before stage 20. None of the subjects in the remote version stopped before stage 20. We acknowledge that far more subjects than we expected are experiencing the tension that builds up in the experiment when it continues to the end.

In his current approach to the IRB, Milgram appears dismissive of the stress of his subjects. "Momentary excitement is not the same as harm." Results from questionnaire completed by respondents after receiving the report on the study: 84% indicated that they were "glad" to have been in the experiment, and four-fifths of subjects "felt that more experiments of this kind should be carried out." Present Milgram's arguments about the importance of the findings. The experiment should not be discontinued because the results are unexpected and unpleasant. "If, instead, every one of the subjects has broken off at 'slight shock,' or at the first sign of the learner's discomfort, the results would have been pleasant, and reassuring, and who would protest [continuing the experiment.]"

Milgram's new approach seeks permission to continue the experiment with introduction of more variations. What questions would you ask as an IRB member at this stage? Would you approve continuing the experiment? If so, would you impose additional conditions? If not, why are you not concerned about the stress to participants? Note that Milgram was sensitive to the subject's stress but was also willing to use experimental formats that produced very high stress levels. In the touch-proximity experiment, "The scene is brutal and depressing: his [the teacher's] hard, impassive face showing total indifference as he subdues the screaming learner and gives him shocks."

Will you vote to allow Milgram to proceed? Why, or why not?

Author: Gary Comstock
Maintained By: Gary Comstock
Last Updated: 2007-08-17