If you think APA's new Ethics Code is a lot to swallow, imagine being a psychologist in 1953, the first year the association published an ethics code: a 5.5 by 8.5-inch tome that was more than 170 pages long, compared with this year's slim 16-page document.
According to the 1953 code's forward, more than 2,000 psychologists substantially contributed to those first guiding principles, which were shaped by an eight-member Committee on Ethical Standards for Psychology chaired by Nicholas Hobbs. The association also published a companion volume, "A Summary of Ethical Principles," which summed up the major points of the longer document for the public.
One of the biggest differences from today's code is that the 1953 document was chock-full of ethical dilemmas that real psychologists had written to the committee about. Many of these vignettes still strike close to home, such as quarrels over publication credit and instances where the media misrepresented a researcher's findings.
Perhaps most importantly, the crafters of that first code set the stage for psychologists' code of ethics to be a continual work in progress.
Letters to the Editor
- Send us a letter