Lesson Idea: Ethics of reporting findings

Travis DixonQualitative Research Methods

Researchers (and reporters) have to consider how the reporting of the results of studies could affect other people.

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

The most obvious consideration (or guideline) relevant to this question is anonymity – not revealing participants names in the final report. Other relevant considerations or guidelines may include:

  • Informed consent (avoiding deception)
  • Debriefing
  • Confidentiality (not telling people you’re involved in the study – similar to anonymity)
  • Right to withdraw

Alternatively, you might explain a general consideration related to beneficence – avoiding harm of participants (from the Belmont Report). You could do this by explaining how reporting the results may cause harm (psychological, emotional or physical) to participants and/or how the researchers could avoid this.


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


  1. Read the following summaries of studies.
  2. Identify two ethical considerations that are relevant to the reporting of these results.
  3. Try to explain how or why these ethical considerations are relevant.

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

Brain damage affects decision-making: Bechara et al. found that people with damage to their ventromedial prefrontal cortices (vmPFCs) made impulsive decisions and could not think about the consequences of their actions. In the gambling task, they made decisions that were beneficial in the short-term but ended up losing them money in the long-term (Read more here).

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When you explain the ethics in reporting results you have to think about (a) how reporting those results might affect others and (b) how you could reduce chances of negative effects (Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com)

The drugs don’t work – antidepressant medication: One review of studies conducted on the effectiveness of antidepressant medication to treat depression found that “…antidepressants were not clinically significant for mild, moderate and severe depression…” (Kirsch, et al. 2008 as cited here).

Race and IQ: In the controversial book, The Bell Curve, they reference a study that found differences in average IQs between different races (White, Black, Asian, Latino and Jewish) (As referenced in this article).

Social Media and Depression: In their original article, McCrae et al. reported that in their study their results showed “…a small but statistically significant correlation between social media use and depressive symptoms in young people (Link).” However, when reporting these results in an online article their headline is: “Social media is not to blame for depression in young people.” (Read the article here).

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Ethics in reporting results also applies to the results being reported in the media. (Image taken from http://theconversation.com/social-media-is-not-to-blame-for-depression-in-young-people-73635).