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In a research project designed to study people’s altruistic, or “helping,” behavior, Katerina Watson, a professor at a large public state university, plans to place one research subject in a room with several research assistants (affiliated with the project). She will assign the group a task, supposedly the purpose of the experiment, then arrange for an “emergency” to occur in the vicinity of the laboratory — the group will hear a loud thud from an adjacent room and then a cry for help. She will instruct the research assistants to look up upon hearing the cry, then return to their task. In a pilot test of this procedure, a research volunteer looked around uncomfortably, then returned to the assigned task, as the research assistants did. Following the experiment, the subjects will be debriefed about the true purpose of the research.


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Why does the IRB need to review the research protocol? If you were a member of the IRB reviewing the above case, with what particular issue might you be concerned? Would you approve Smith’s proposal as submitted? Why or why not? If not, what changes would you suggest?

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