The Helsinki Convention and the 5 basic ethical principles

December 6, 2011 at 4:49 pm (Uncategorized)

Well, i know that every psychologist has heard of these, but heres a small recap for those of you (like me) who are currentyl carryingtoo much infromation in their brains to remember what we did at A level.

The Helsinki convention, set up in 1964 was made to protect all members of the public that psychologist work with and that participant wellbeing is cared for above everything else. There are currently 32 main rules that researchers have to adhere to, and the full list, for those of you that are interested, can be read here: There are, however, 5 basic ethical principles which were originally set out. these are:

1. Beneficience and Nonmaleficence – i.e. only benefitting and not harming those people they work with

2. Fidelity and Responsibility – i.e. a responsability to maintain trust

3. Intergrity – responsibility to promote truthfulnes, accuracy and honesty in their work

4. Justice – ensuring equality for all people that they work with

5. Respect of rights and dignity – need to respect and individuals rights to confidentiality, dignity and privacy.


These basic ethical principles have caused much controversy between psychologists and other scientific fields that adhere to these guidelines. Although I dont think anyone thinks that we shouldnt protect the people around them, (and if they did, maybe they are sitting on the wrong side of the desk) but I think the main issue here is the fact that this hinders a lot of important research in the field of psychology and medical science. Think, for example, of those psychologists such as Zimbardo and Milgram, they would not have been able to conduct these experiments now, yet they provided so much important research in their fields.

However, if using cost/benefit analysis, the cost of harming a person, either mentally or physically is always going to cot more than the benefits of gaining more information. Yes, if we do not do drastic experiments such as Milgrams and Zimbardos, it is going to take us a lot longer to get to that next big advancement in whatever theory that we’re studying, but i know, if it was me researching, i’d rather have to conduct a few more experiments and have a clear conscience knowing all my participants were healthy, than make a huge advancement and know that i’d killed off a few people along the way.



  1. zjww said,

    I agree that harming a human being permanently, mentally or physical does pose the question of whether the ends justify the means and that the means of harming a human being to just gain knowledge does also pose the question whether this is a progression in humanity and society or not. Although i feel that bad/evil ethics should not be used as there are other means of gaining the information whether it takes longer and harder to gain, I also feel that research with ‘poor’ ethics should not be scrutinised and put under such strict guidelines that ethics outline.

  2. tomwall39 said,

    You’ve brought up some good points, especially highlighting the debate with Zimbardo and Milgram. I agree that sometimes we need to push the boat out more and sometimes try the controversial studies as these are what improves the science and as you say, could be the next breakthrough as long as the protection is still there. However thee is still the fact that these are set out to protect both the participant and the experimenter so we cant say to much wrong about these guidelines.

  3. stach22 said,

    I agree with your comments that we shouldn’t be over cautious with our research- and i agree that most of the most influential research, has been controversial and the research that has revealed the most about the abilities of what humans are capable of-like milgram’s study- they have been viewed as the unethical research- however we have to look at it from a rational point of view- humans aren’t animals and we shouldn’t be treated as such- although i see the side that if participants are protected then it will be seen as acceptable however even the most protected research can, when controversial, have a negative impact on a participants.

  4. The Helsinki Convention and the 5 basic ethical principles | statstastic said,

    […] post on the ethics of conducting research on the internet I thought a nice follow up would be The Helsinki Convention and the 5 basic ethical principles . This is a set of basic ethical principles regarding human experimentation.There has been six […]

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