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Little Albert and David Reimer: Ethical Analysis

Ethics Essay


All subconscious studies focusing on human being must obtain ethical authorization by the Psychology Research Ethics Committee. Psychologist desperate to execute a research/review must first post a loaded in form of mindset ethics committee program cover page, write up a information proposal describing the study process and add any assisting documents. These steps are compulsory previous to research as a way to protect participants from inhumane injury.

Due to past examples of highly unethical research like the "Little Albert" test and "David Reimer" experiment, it has brought about internal societies to issue a code of ethics in mindset which provides ethical guidelines for research workers. The code of ethics includes informed consent, voluntary involvement, to withdraw, correct reporting, do no damage, debriefing and desensitisation.

Experiment 1 - Unethical Reasons

The first example of past research that might be considered unethical by today's guidelines is the "Little Albert" test. The experiment is conducted in 1920 at John's Hopkins University by behavioural psychologist John B. Watson and his associate. The goal of the test was to research whether dread is something delivered with or can be learned due to publicity of environmental affects; and when phobia can be developed by classical conditioning. The participant was 9 month old newborn, Little Albert. Within the experiment, Little Albert was initially exposed to various white or furry items and happenings that usually cause fear. Next, a white lab rat was given to Albert and he showed no dread. Watson then made noisy banging appears behind Albert's again each time he touched the rat - Little Albert cried. He became upset when he was exposed to the white rat again as he linked the rat with the banging sound produced.

First of most, the experiment has breached the "do no damage" guideline as Little Albert had not been protected from mental harm - the key reason for the test is to check if dread can be developed by classical conditioning. Also, Watson recognized that there will be not be sufficient time kept to treat any possible concerns/harms caused. Second, the "voluntary contribution" guide is breached as Little Albert didn't volunteer for the analysis, he's too young. Little Albert was chosen from a healthcare facility where his mom performed as a wet nurse. She actually is financially reliant on the hospital for income and feared that she would lose her job if she disagreed Little Albert's contribution. In addition, she received $1 for Little Albert's involvement in the test. In a way, she was required to consent for participation to keep her job and scheduled to assist in financial problems. Thirdly, the "informed consent" guideline is breached as his mom was never up to date about the task, the professionals & cons and withdrawal privileges of the experiment. Finally, the "desensitisation and debriefing" guideline is breached as there was no removal of side effects and Little Albert was never cured for his anxieties as he still left the hospital right after the experiment finished. Because of this, Little Albert developed doubts towards anything that was white & fluffy and grown up possessing a phobia of dogs.


There are suggestions to ensure that the "Little Albert" experiment could be run ethically. First of all, the do no harm and desensitisation guideline could be connected together. Watson must have suggested treatment ideas to help take away the harm and cause of fear of Little Albert. That is extremely vital in guarding the members from future subconscious issues that may have a substantial impact on their lives. Second of all, Watson should have chosen other babies who didn't have parents who proved helpful in that clinic, in order that they do not feel pressured to simply accept the question. Also, Watson should not use money to get agreement for involvement. Lastly, Watson should have properly notify Little Albert's mommy about the experiment procedure and make it clear that he had the to withdraw from the test at any time without the problems caused.

Experiment 2 - Unethical

The second exemplory case of past research that would be considered unethical by today's suggestions is the "David Reimer" experiment. The test is conducted in 1965 at John's Hopkins Medical center by sexologist Dr Money. The goal of the experiment was to confirm that nurture, instead of nature decides gender identification and erotic orientation. The participant was 22 month old baby, David Reimer. In the experiment, the baby underwent a intimacy re-assignment surgery where his testes were surgically removed. David (now Brenda) transformed his name and was brought up as a female. The program failed when his family finally disclosed her original gender at era 15.

First of most, the experiment has breached the "do no injury" guide as David Reimer experienced severe subconscious injury - he dedicated suicide at years 38. Also, the experiment has indirectly induced injury to his family: his mommy was suicidal, his father was alcoholic and his twin sibling was severely depressed committed suicide by the end. Secondly, the "voluntary contribution" guideline is breached as David Reimer did not volunteer for the study, his parents were equally horrified by the advice of a love-making change, but eventually decided to the task. Little have they know Dr Money's real intention - to work with David to verify his "theory of gender neutrality", which states that gender can be trained by being brought up within an appropriate environment. Finally, the "informed consent" guideline is breached as his parents weren't properly informed of the experiment. These were not told what was going on through the kids' yearly meetings with Dr Money. Fourthly, the "accurate reporting" guideline is breached. Dr Money composed a written report on his analysis and said that the test was an enormous success and this his theory is recognized, which greatly contradicts the info from previous accounts. It really is clear that the Reimer family were having huge mental health issues - David wasn't living up to his role as Dr Money acquired referred to in his statement. Dr Money has falsified the results of the experiment. Last but not least, the "withdrawal privileges" is breached as David and his twin sibling Brian were required to go to Baltimore for annual conferences with Dr Money until they refused (not because that they had the to withdraw, but because they were too frightened to see him)


There are guidelines to ensure that the "David Reimer" test could be run ethically. Firstly, Dr Money must have advised a psychiatrist to judge David and provide counselling treatment to assist in his acceptance of his true gender. Dr Money must have advised treatment centres for the Reimer family to go to to remove all unwanted effects brought on by the concealed fact of David's real gender. Second of all, Dr Money must have debrief the Reimer family of his real motives of using David as an experimental thing is because of selfishness, rather than persuading these to think that a gender change is indeed the best advice that Dr Money can give. Finally, Dr Money must have educated David's parents of what he have during the yearly meetings. In those meetings, he frightened the twins by using disgusting and improper ways to produce a clear chop difference between womanly and masculine. He made David and his twin perform sexual acts and got photos of these naked. Lastly, Dr Money must have accurately record his test results. Many textbooks were re-written just to post his theory that he stated as backed, which the truth is just evidently contradicts the whole experiment effect when David devoted suicide due to despair.


All in every, when there weren't any moral guidelines in the past, unethical tests can be conducted by psychologists for selfish and illegitimate reasons. It really is anticipated to such unethical tests that urged psychological societies to concern a code of ethics to be able to protect the members from inhumane harm. All psychologist have to totally follow the guidelines in order to acquire approval to conduct their intended test.

Due to having less guidelines in the past, Little Albert was psychologically harmed that he developed a phobia that was not cared for. David Reimer was also psychologically harmed as he was not up to date of his original gender until 15 years later where his whole family broke down psychologically. Previously, "she" was so perplexed and was often teased about her doubtful gender individuality, which also impacted on her behalf self-esteem.

In reality, both experiments could be run ethically even in case a code of ethics had not been issued in the first times. However, this is dependent on the degree of common sense and humaneness the psychologist designs the test.


  • Introduces the audience to the actual fact that emotional research today must follow ethical guidelines. Briefly says what these guidelines are. Explains that there are examples of earlier research that would breach today's suggestions.
  • Describes an example of past research that would be considered unethical by today's guidelines. Explains why it would be classed as unethical i. e. which guidelines are breached and exactly how.
  • Makes specific suggestions as to the way the research could be run ethically. If this isn't possible, then argues why not.
  • Describes another example of past research that would be considered unethical by today's recommendations. . Explains why it might be classed as unethical i. e. which guidelines are breached and how.
  • Makes specific recommendations as to the way the second exemplory case of research could be run ethically. If this isn't possible, then argues why not.
  • Sums up details of the article (will not present any new information or ideas).
  • Harvard in-text referencing and a complete reference list is essential
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