6.7.2 Put yourself in everyone else’s shoes

Often researchers are so focused on the scientific aims of their work that they see the world only through that lens. This myopia can lead to bad ethical judgment. Therefore, when you are thinking about your study, try to imagine how your participants, other relevant stakeholders, and even a journalist might react to your study. This perspective taking is different than imaging how you would feel in each of these positions. Rather, it is trying to imagine how these other people will feel, a process that is likely to induce empathy (Batson, Early, and Salvarani 1997). Thinking through your work from these different perspectives can help you foresee problems and move your work into better ethical balance.

Further, when imagining your work from the perspective of others, you should expect that they are likely to fixate on vivid worst-case scenarios. For example, in response to Emotional Contagion, some critics focused on the possibility that it might have triggered suicide, a low-probability but extremely vivid worst-case scenario. Once people’s emotions have been activated and they focus on worst-case scenarios, they may completely lose track of the probability of this worst-case event occurring (Sunstein 2002). The fact that people might respond emotionally, however, does not mean that you should dismiss them as uninformed, irrational, or stupid. We should all be humble enough to realize that none of us have a perfect view of ethics.