One advantage of the field experiment method used by Piliavin is high ecological validity. The experimental procedure of someo ne collapsing on the New York subway train was realistic and because the passengers had no idea that they were being observed their helping behaviour was representative of how they would have behaved had this incident been real.
For top-band marks, you should give a brief description of the method and the experimental procedure used in the study selected and the advantage must be explained in the context of the selected study. c Possible answers:
One ethical issue was that the passengers on the train were not asked for their informed consent — the passengers had no idea they were being observed or that their behaviour was being manipulated.
One ethical issue was that the experiment included deception because the passengers were deceived into believing that the lame or drunk victim was really in need of help.
One ethical issue was that passengers were not debriefed and they might have left the train feeling good about themselves because they had helped or perhaps feeling guilty because they had not helped.
For a top-band mark, you should identify each of the two ethical guidelines that were breached and then explain how each guideline was breached in the selected study. d Example top-band answer:
One reason why the ethical guideline of informed consent was breached is because Piliavin wanted to identify the factors that motivate us to help others. If the passengers had been told the true purpose of the study, a demand characteristic would have been generated and passengers might only have helped because they believed that this was the right thing to do. In which case the measure of helping behaviour would have a low level of realism compared to whether and how people would help in an everyday social setting.
When participants are involved in experimental research without giving their consent their behaviour is manipulated without their knowledge. It was unethical to involve people who were travelling on the subway train, wh o all, whether they decided to help or not, were distracted from their everyday concerns, and who were never debriefed. Piliavin should not have done this, as manipulating the behaviour of an unsuspecting public brings psychology into disrepute.
Examiners look for the quality of the explanation in the context of the study. Students who write generic answers lose marks. e The passengers on the New York subway were trapped in the carriage during the 8-minute journey which breached their right to withdraw from the experiment. One way to improve the ethics would be for Piliavin to stage the lame or drunk victim collapsing in a park or inside a shopping centre. If this were done, the right to withdraw would not be breached because people who happened to be present could just walk away if they chose not to help.
Another way the study could be made more ethical would