Lesson Idea: Ethics of applying findings

Travis DixonQualitative Research Methods

Studies continue to show links between social media, smart phones and psychological problems for teens. What might be the negative effects of schools banning the use of smartphones and social media because of these findings? This is one example of how we have to consider the ethical considerations in applying findings from studies. (Photo by Tracy Le Blanc on pexels.com)

In the new IB Psychology Paper 3, you may be asked to explain the ethical considerations involved in applying findings of the study.

  • See this lesson idea to help with reporting the findings of a study.

What does it mean to “apply findings?”

To apply the findings (results) of a study means that the results are being used to inform and/or justify some kind of action.

Here are some examples:

  • The collection of findings from studies on the reliability of memory and how questioning techniques can cause false memories have been applied to inform and change the procedures that police officers use when interviewing witnesses.
  • Some schools have used studies on the effectiveness of later school starts to change their school schedule and have school starting later in the day (Read more here).

How do you explain considerations related to “applying findings?”

You have to explain how the application of those findings could harm participants in some way (a consideration related to beneficence) and/or how following a particular guideline (e.g. informed consent) might reduce that harm. Read more in the textbook, pg. 452-3).


Aim: This practice activity is designed to help you understand the ethical considerations related to applying results.


  1. Read the following summaries of studies.
  2. Identify how these applications may have the potential for harm.

To explain an ethical consideration in applying results means you have to explain how the application of the result might have a negative effect on others and/or how the researchers could use the guidelines to reduce this negative effect.

Growth mindset: Studies in education and learning have shown that if you praise a child for their intelligence they don’t work as hard as when you praise them for their effort. Teachers are now being trained to not tell kids how “smart” they are (e.g., saying “wow, you solved that all by yourself. You’re so smart.”). Instead, teachers are being taught to praise effort (e.g. “wow, you solved that all by yourself. You must have worked hard. Well done.”) What are the ethical considerations with this application – how could it have a negative impact?

Schools ban smartphones: Because of the amount of research that is showing correlations between smartphone use and psychological issues with teenagers, high schools around the world are banning kids from using phones at school. What are the ethical implications of this? i.e. How could this have a negative impact? (Read more here).

photo of four girls wearing school uniform doing hand signs

Schools and parents LOVE to apply findings from research, but is this always a good thing? (Photo by 周 康 on Pexels.com)

Parents ban social media: Similar to the point above, parents are now banning their kids from social media because of the number of studies that show it has harmful effects. What are the ethical considerations with this application – how could it have a negative impact?

Mindfulness in schools instead of detention: Some schools are getting rid of detention and traditional punishments for misbehaving and naughty kids have meditation or mindfulness sessions instead. This is based on lots of modern research on the benefits of mindfulness and meditation on the brain. (Example here). What are the ethical considerations with this application – how could it have a negative impact?

Exam Tip: In Paper 3 the question might be: Describe the ethical considerations in reporting the results and explain additional ethical considerations that could be taken into account when applying the findings of the study.” This is a tough question but this activity, the textbook and revision book can help.