Commentary to part VIII

Susan T. Fiske

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


Ethical treatment of human research participants boasts a huge literature, most recently the National Research Council report on Revisions to the Common Rule for the Use of Human Subjects, a panel chaired by yours truly. Revisions to the Common Rule aim to preserve ethical treatment while reducing the burden on investigators and institutional review boards (IRBs). Core principles of ethical treatment include the Belmont Report’s respect for persons, benei cence, and justice. Nowhere are these principles more important for behavioral and social sciences than in cases of investigating the evils of human behaviors such as those confronted in this Part: child abuse, power exploitation, sexual violence, cheating, lying, and intergroup hatred. As a science, we cannot understand social issues and make the world a better place without tackling uncomfortable topics. So beneficence and justice (and often respecting the autonomy of persons) all require that we as a science and as a larger ethical community confront the trade-offs in this potentially controversial research. We have an ethical responsibility to promote this kind of research. Reducing burdens on investigators and IRBs is an ethical responsibility that promotes potentially benei cial research and focuses IRB expertise on cases where it truly matters to participants’ welfare. Human research ethics must balance the promotion of research and its benefits to humanity with the prevention of harm to participants; both are moral obligations.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationEthical Challenges in the Behavioral and Brain Sciences
PublisherCambridge University Press
Number of pages2
ISBN (Electronic)9781139626491
ISBN (Print)9781107039735
StatePublished - Jan 1 2015

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Psychology


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