What Is Informed Consent in Research? - Definition & Purpose

What Is Informed Consent in Research? - Definition & Purpose
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  • 0:07 Defining Informed Consent
  • 1:20 Obtaining Informed Consent
  • 1:49 Example
  • 2:35 Purpose of Informed Consent
  • 3:02 Special Considerations
  • 5:55 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Devin Kowalczyk

Devin has taught psychology and has a master's degree in clinical forensic psychology. He is working on his PhD.

After you have figured out what you are going to research and have approval to do it, you need informed consent from the participants in your experiment. What is informed consent, and how is it different than regular consent?

Defining Informed Consent

Informed consent is so important that in the 9th revision of the American Psychological Association's Ethical Code it has its own section, 8.02. And, no, you won't be tested on that exact detail. However, it is worth mentioning because informed consent has its own dedicated section. It is that important. Informed consent provides participants with sufficiently detailed information on the study so that they can make an informed, voluntary and rational decision to participate. This includes:

  • The purpose of the study
  • Expected duration
  • Procedures of the study
  • Information on their right to decline or withdraw
  • Foreseeable consequences of withdrawing or declining
  • Potential risk, discomfort or adverse effects
  • Prospective research benefits
  • Incentives, such as payment or rewards
  • Whom to contact for questions

Lastly, as part of obtaining informed consent, a researcher must allow time for questions the participants might have. The answers should provide sufficient information without compromising the study. We will discuss how convoluted this gets with deceptive studies in a second.

Obtaining Informed Consent

All of the previously mentioned aspects must be provided to participants before they are entered into the study. Informed consent must be either documented by written consent or by oral consent in language that is reasonably understandable. Most researchers use a written form that the participants sign and date because there might be problems later on. One can never really predict the future and written proof is valuable in the courtroom setting.


Let's develop an informed consent for a study involving the interaction with others in monkey suits. You're curious to see if the subjects will act differently if speaking to someone in a full monkey suit instead of regular clothes. Your informed consent must have:

  • The purpose is to study a person's interaction with others.
  • That it should last no longer than an hour.
  • The subject can chose to decline or withdraw.
  • That they will not be part of the study if they chose to decline or withdraw.
  • There may be some discomfort or confusion when talking to a person in a monkey suit.
  • How you hope to learn something about how people interact.
  • That each participant will receive a banana for their help.
  • And, your name and contact information if they have any questions afterwards.

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