Week 8 Spark Forum

“In this Spark activity, you will need to place yourself in the shoes of the Ethics Review Committee. Read the case studies below, then share your answers to the discussion points in the forum below. Please take no longer than 15 minutes on each case study” (Falmouth University 2020).

Case Study 1

“Tyrone wants to study the impact of violent games on people’s attitudes toward violence in real life. He plans to test 14-16 yr olds because he believes they are still young enough to be highly impressionable. He will solicit volunteers to come after school. Half will be assigned to play one hour of a violent game while the other half will play an hour of a game that involves no violence. After the hour, all participants will fill out a questionnaire about their attitudes toward violence” (Falmouth University 2020).

What additional information might you want to know about the study in order to decide whether or not it should be approved?

Has Tyrone considered that many of the students who play the non-violent game for an hour may already play violent games and that this might affect his questionnaire results? For example, a student may have woken up, watched the human centipede, gone to school, got into a fight at lunch, and then played an hour of non-violent video games (Journey – why not). What does one questionnaire after his hour of Journey tell us about the effect of violence, specifically in video games?

What is Tyrone’s idea behind the experiment? Is he looking at violent imagery or violence in games, and why does he wish to differentiate between the two? There are choices, actions and consequences in games, and separating the effects of violence in games or films on young people is an interesting question. However, it is almost impossible to truly understand the impact of one over the other because all young people likely experience both. Some young people might experience violence in their life at home, at extended families or friends. Again this could impact your studies as well as present a moral dilemma.

Tyrone doesn’t explain whether he differentiates between violence in games and exposing young people to morally complex situations in games. This War of Mine is an example of a game in which there is violence but I would not describe it as a violent game. This War of Mine focuses on the civilian viewpoint of a post-war civilisation where the objective is to survive. My question is, does Tyrone see a difference in types of violence in video games? How does he choose the games the students will play? Will the non-violent games he chooses be non-competitive? Does non-violent also mean an upbeat and positive game?

What are the benefits that might result from this research? What are the potential harms?

Tyrone is unaware of the history of the students that volunteer to participate in his study. Playing violent games may trigger an extreme emotional response from a student who is a victim of bullying or violence at home.

A vulnerable child, sensitive to violence, may be disturbed and develop a psychological disorder due to the experiment.

The study is ill-thought-out. The benefits of the study are small and not worth the potential harms.

If you were on an IRB reviewing this proposal, what would your recommendation be?

The study is completely unethical as it stands. 14-16-year-olds are children. A person walks up to you and asks: Can I show your child violent imagery as part of an experiment to see if it may or may not damage them? Er, no!

The impact of experiencing violence in games at a young age is a worthy question. I would suggest Tyrone create a survey and ask 14-16-year-olds if they have played such games and then ask about their attitudes toward violence. Tyrone should carefully consider how his questions are asked, and be aware that young people might admit to witnessing violent events. He should be trained on the appropriate response to a child who admits they are a victim of domestic abuse or abuse in general and he should be aware that young people today are exposed to many forms of violence in media.

Case Study 2

“Charlotte wants to research the effect of labelling students (gifted vs struggling) on their achievement in the first year of HE. She proposes that students be divided into reading groups in which ability levels are evenly mixed. One group will be told they are gifted readers, another group will be told that they are struggling readers, and a third group will be told nothing at all. Charlotte’s hypothesis states that by the end of the year, the students in the ‘gifted’ level group will outperform those in the ‘struggling’ group on the same reading test” (Falmouth University 2020).

What additional information might you want to know about the study in order to decide whether or not it should be approved?

Will these ‘participants’ be made aware of your ‘experiment’ before hand?

What are the benefits that might result from this research? What are the potential harms?

While technically Charlotte will be testing ‘adults’ the majority of the participants will only just be able to be called so, (being 18). This study would have long term consequences for these students.

This study is not new and offers few benefits. I would suggest Charlotte refer to the existing research in this area. Charlotte’s study is reminiscent of Jane Elliot’s exercise “Blue Eyes/Brown Eyes Exercise”, where participants were told they were either superior or inferior based on their eye colour. The exercise is about racism, and the experience of living as a minority but the study demonstrates the detrimental effect of being labelled ‘inferior’ on our wellbeing.

There are also many papers on grouping students based on ability. I personally disagree with this practice and fear for the day I am told by a teacher which number they assign my son to, in terms of his ability when he is still young. In this instace though, Charlotter is completely arbitarily rating students – that is an ethical problem.

The participants are in an institutional setting, one that will influence their future development, career, relationships and finances (to a name a few). If we take our cohort, for example, tell me, how we would feel if our Development Practice lecturer’s Jamie White (2020) and Giovanni Rubino (2020) are arbitrarily rating our abilities as part of a social experiment – one in which we will only discover at the end of the year? I would not be pleased.

If you were on an IRB reviewing this proposal, what would your recommendation be?

Charlotte can carry out her experiment over the course of a day or short period of time in an event that has no future consequences for those participants. The participants should be volunteers and aware they are part of a social experiment. She must also debrief those volunteers afterwards, being clear that they were arbitrarily assessed and that it was all an experiment.


Jane Elliot. Available at: https://janeelliott.com/ [accessed 6 November 2020].

Falmouth University. 2020. ‘Week 8: Challenge Activity’. Falmouth Flex [online]. Available at: https://flex.falmouth.ac.uk/courses/872/discussion_topics/18641 [accessed 6 November 2020].