A survey on adverse incidents in legal psychology studies: Reflections on ethics review

Melanie Sauerland*, Anna Sagana, Harald Merckelbach

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journal(Systematic) Review article peer-review


Ethics committees (ECs) regulate research activities to maintain research participants' autonomy and to protect them from harm and injury. No research to date attempted to establish how much risk is involved in social-science research. Using a survey approach, we set out to estimate the risk of being involved in an incident for research participants in legal psychology and assessed researchers' views of ECs. Fifty-nine of 188 respondents (31%) stated that they had experienced one or more incidents with a participant. The estimated risk of being involved in an incident was one to three per 10,000 participants, which according to biomedical standards defines a rare risk. Although some researchers were satisfied with their EC, the general tenor was one of discontent due to conservative decision-making, lacking expertise, and overstepping demands. Whether ECs succeed in protecting participants from loss of autonomy, harm and injury are unknown but are open to empirical research.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)682-692
Number of pages11
JournalApplied Cognitive Psychology
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2019


  • code of ethics
  • harm
  • randomized controlled trial
  • risk of participation
  • risk probability
  • IRBS

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