There are a number of topics I have been wanting to blog about for ages, but I never get around to it. Some because I just don’t have had the time or the right priorities to get it written, some because it would actually require a lot of research to be a reasonable blog post. So let me just mention them for future reference or for if anyone knows about any existing ideas / publications / etc. that are relevant. The third one is:
Last Friday I was teaching my research design class on experiments. In political science, this is a small but quickly growing field of research. One topic that always comes up in that class is ethics – it is the one area in social science research where ethics are most clearly an issue. Is it alright to mislead people during the experiment? Is it alright to have people involved who did not volunteer for the research? But while there are very serious ethical concerns, this kind of research is ideal for figuring out human behaviour with regards controversial issues such as discriminatory practices, authoritarian personalities, effect of hierarchy, etc. Issues that are absolutely crucial to understand human behaviour and to understand how humanity commits its worst atrocities. At what point does the importance of this understanding outweigh the ethical issues with the experiment? The Milgram experiments are the most famous example of “unethical” research that nevertheless leads to crucial insights about human behaviour and Eichmann-like obedience.