Ethical violation in psychology as a business Introduction Business activities involve interactions among stakeholders and legal and moral rights andobligations. Psychological rules of morality regulate the interactions to safeguard the rights and ensure the obligations through ethical theories and principles. This paper reviews a case to determine ethical violations in the case, possible strategies for resolving the involved ethical dilemma and possible consequences of the strategy.
Summary of the selected poor outcome case
‘Scientific or clinical basis for, or results or degree of success of, their service’ is the selected case for review. The case involves a behavioral psychologist who conducts a weight loss program for obese adolescents. The psychologist publishes that 99 percent of his clients maintain their weight loss upon completing the program but does not state that the reported success is limited to a period of less than three weeks (Fisher, 2012).
Ethical violations related to the business of psychology that the researcher committed
The publication identifies violation of honesty, fairness, and integrity. Honesty doctrine defines trustworthiness and relates to an individual’s knowledge. It requires dissemination of information to the sender’s best knowledge and without concealment of any fact. This is however contrary to the publication in which the researcher restricts analysis to a three-week period but does not disclose such a limitation. Honesty violation therefore results from the researcher’s bias in selecting communicated information with a possible intention to mislead (Fernando, 2010). Fairness is another ethical principle that the researcher violates through undermining concepts of “reciprocity and optimization” (Ferrell, Fraedrich and Ferrell, 2009, p. 62). The publication aims at attracting clients and their payments for the program while the program is not 100 percent effective to ensure long-term weight loss and this undermines reciprocation of clients’ money. The published information also compromises integrity in its biased representation of data. A moral approach, conscious of virtue ethics, would have observed involved ethical principles such as honesty and fairness to attract clients for the true value of the program’s level of effectiveness (Trevino and Nelson, 2010).
Strategies the researcher could have implemented to resolve the ethical dilemma
The ethical dilemma in the case is the choice between ethics in communicating the program’s effectiveness to allow for accurate judgment of the program’s effectiveness at the expense of attracting more clients or breach of ethical principles in order to attract more clients. One of the strategies to resolving the dilemma is clarification that the publication is limited to a three-week period and while this resolves the violated ethical principles, it may still communicate effectiveness of the program that may be assumed to last for longer periods. The researcher could also resolve the ethical dilemma by considering longer periods and explaining probability of the program’s effectiveness from the offered statistics (Ferrell, Fraedrich and Ferrell, 2009).
Possible outcomes of the proposed strategies, and additional dilemmas
An ethical approach to representing the data by either stating the limited period or including data from longer periods is likely to communicate the program’s ineffectiveness and reduce the number of clients and consequent dilemma would be the need to attract and retain clients with moral consciousness.
The problem identifies bias in communicating data and violation of integrity, fairness, and honesty doctrines. The involved dilemma of communicating the program’s positive image could be resolved by clarifying the considered period for the publication or consideration of data from a longer period. This would however expose the program’s possible ineffectiveness and induce a further dilemma of attracting and retaining clients.
Fernando, A. (2010). Business ethics and corporate governance. New Delhi: Pearson Education India.
Ferrell, O., Fraedrich, J. and Ferrell, L. (2009). Business ethics 2009 update: Ethical decision making and cases. Mason, OH: Cengage Learning.
Fisher, C. (2012). Decoding the ethics code: A practical guide for psychologists. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE.
Trevino, L. and Nelson, K. (2010). Managing business ethics. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons.