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A consent form is an important document used to show that a person agrees to something that will happen. In this lesson, we will examine examples of consent forms and their use in psychology.

What Might a Consent Form Look Like?

Imagine you see an advertisement in the college newspaper looking for students to participate in a study on sleep deprivation. It looks interesting, so you decide to check it out.

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When you stop by the office supervising the study, you are given a form to look over. You are told that you need to return the form if you are willing to participate in the study. The form tells you the following information:

  • You will be asked to go without sleep for 36 hours.
  • During this time you will be asked to perform tasks that assess your motor skills.

  • You should be exposed to no long-term risks or benefits as a result of the study.
  • You will receive one college credit from your complete participation in the study.
  • Any data from you will be assigned to a number and your name will not be kept on record or be revealed to another party other than to the college registrar so you can receive credit.
  • You have the right to quit the research study at any time.
  • You can contact the supervising office with any questions you may have.

If you agree to participate in the study, the form then asks for your signature at the bottom.

What you were given is a consent form. A consent form is a document that someone signs to show that they will allow something to happen.

The Use of Consent Forms in Psychology

In psychology, a consent form is often called informed consent. It is a legal procedure used to ensure that a person is aware of what they are agreeing to do and is also aware of any risks or costs that may exist. Informed consent is only valid if the person is capable of making a rational decision and agrees voluntarily.

There are two instances where consent forms are used in psychology:

  1. When a person enters into treatment with a psychologist or psychiatrist
  2. When performing research on human subjects

Take a moment to think about whether you would want to participate in a research study or enter into psychological treatment without a consent form. Why or why not?Take, for example, the hypothetical situation presented at the beginning of this lesson, in which you would participate in a study on sleep deprivation. That consent form for human research contains information on the procedure, risks involved, costs or compensation for participation, your rights as a participant, contact information, and a confidentiality agreement.A consent form for treatment is a little bit different. This form will include a confidentiality agreement, a financial agreement, and specifics on the type and duration of the treatment.

If you are entering treatment for depression, for example, your psychologist will want to be sure that you are agreeing to treatment and will obtain your informed consent. The document tells you that your insurance will be accepted as payment. It also states that your treatment will consist of 24 office visits over the next three months and contains a statement of confidentiality.

By signing the document, you are indicating that you understand the treatment you will be receiving.

Lesson Summary

A consent form is a document that someone signs to show that they will allow something to happen. Consent forms are used in psychology to insure that a person is aware of what they are agreeing to do and of any risks or costs that may exist. It is only valid if the person agrees voluntarily and is capable of making a rational decision. Informed consent is a legal procedure used to ensure that a person is aware of what they are agreeing to do and is also aware of any risks or costs that may exist.

A consent form is used when a person enters into psychological treatment or participates in a research study.

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