Evidence-based ethics: The social psychology of informed consent in victimization research
Study Objectives: One procedure recommended to improve participation in victimization studies is “graduated consent,” in which details of the study are revealed in increments during participation. However, this procedure is controversial because the participant provides consent without full information about the nature and methods of the research. Social psychological research on escalating commitment suggests that these procedures may enhance the likelihood of coercion. To investigate attitudes toward this procedure, we surveyed a national sample of 1288 researchers and IRB members with experience in mental health and psychiatric research
Method: As part of a larger study, participants were presented with vignettes describing standard or graduated consent procedures and rated their opinions about the procedures. We conducted a proportional odds logistic regression to determine how type of consent influenced appraisal of the risk/benefit balance, potential for enhanced research participation, potential for coercion, and likelihood that an IRB would approve the consent procedure.
Results: Compared to standard consent, graduated consent procedures were rated as more likely to enhance participation in victimization research (OR = 1.77), more likely to be coercive (OR = 4.96) and less likely to be approved by an IRB (0.28). There were no significant differences between researchers and IRB members, although there were differences based on the gender of the researcher or IRB member.
Conclusions: Our findings illustrate the tension between enhanced participation and the potential for coercion in victimization research. We discuss these findings in terms of ethical protections, risk-benefit ratios, and social psychological research on escalating commitment.
Learning Areas:Ethics, professional and legal requirements
Social and behavioral sciences
Describe: (1) differences between standard and graduated consent procedures, (2) potential benefit to graduated consent procedures, and (3) relationship between escalating commitment research and graduated consent procedures.
Keyword(s): Ethics, Vulnerable Populations
Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I am Principal Investigator on two NIH-funded R01s studying research ethics with vulnerable populations. I have published in this area and have been an IRB member at a research university for 8 years.
Any relevant financial relationships? No
I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.