Guard or inmate? Who would you like to be?
In my most recent set of posts I have been talking about Bradford Hill’s criteria for causality (see here for first post). So far we have covered strength, consistency, specificity, temporality, dose-response, plausibility, and coherence. Today we are going to talk about experiment – the eighth criterion.
This is an easy one (and it’s a Friday… Perfect!). Can the condition of the association of interest be altered (prevented or ameliorated) by an appropriate experimental / semi-experimental regimen? If so, then this would lend support to the notion of causality.
That’s it. Now consider the infamous Stanford Prison Experiment that has etched its place in history, as a notorious example of the unexpected effects that can occur when psychological experiments into human nature are performed.The experiment was a study of the psychological effects of becoming a prisoner or prison guard. The experiment was conducted at Stanford University on August 14–20, 1971, by a team of researchers led by psychology professor Philip Zimbardo using college students. Needless to say the experiment got out of hand and participants were harmed in the research process. Whoops! Not good.
The Stanford Prison Experiment led to the implementation of rules to preclude any harmful treatment of participants. Before they’re implemented, human studies must now undergo an extensive review by an research ethics board or institutional review board.
You may be able to show causality by an experimental regimen but at what cost? Be careful and think about research ethics before you leap into an experiment.
Watch the trailer to the movie about the Stanford Prison Experiment to get a better idea of what I am talking about and…
… I’ll see you in the blogosphere!