June 30, 2014

APA Ethics Code Addresses When Obtaining Informed Consent From Research Participants Is Necessary

WASHINGTON — Informed consent is the process by which researchers working with human participants describe their research project and obtain the subjects' consent to participate in the research based on the subjects' understanding of the project's methods and goals. Most research projects require informed consent.

The Ethics Code of the American Psychological Association describes informed consent, in part, as follows:

“Informed Consent, psychologists inform participants about (1) the purpose of the research, expected duration and procedures; (2) their right to decline to participate and to withdraw from the research once participation has begun; (3) the foreseeable consequences of declining or withdrawing; (4) reasonably foreseeable factors that may be expected to influence their willingness to participate such as potential risks, discomfort or adverse effects; (5) any prospective research benefits; (6) limits of confidentiality; (7) incentives for participation; and (8) whom to contact for questions about the research and research participants' rights. They provide opportunity for the prospective participants to ask questions and receive answers.”

APA reiterated its policy with respect to informed consent in light of a study involving approximately 700,000 Facebook users without their knowledge.

The American Psychological Association, in Washington, D.C., is the largest scientific and professional organization representing psychology in the United States. APA's membership includes nearly 130,000 researchers, educators, clinicians, consultants and students. Through its divisions in 54 subfields of psychology and affiliations with 60 state, territorial and Canadian provincial associations, APA works to advance the creation, communication and application of psychological knowledge to benefit society and improve people's lives.