Safety and Ethics in a Psychophysiology Laboratory

Robert M. Stern, William J. Ray and Karen S. Quigley

in Psychophysiological Recording

Second edition

Published in print December 2000 | ISBN: 9780195113594
Published online March 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780199846962 | DOI:
Safety and Ethics in a Psychophysiology Laboratory

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While the electrical environment of a psychophysiology laboratory is probably at least as safe as the modern home and ordinarily poses little threat of shock, there are important implications for the treatment of the subject, particularly concerning grounding. It is standard procedure in some laboratories to attach a ground lead to the subject when recording psychophysiological measures. The reason for the ground connection in these cases is not as protection for the subject, but rather to minimize unwanted electrical signals. If left “floating”, or ungrounded, the subject acts as an antenna, picking up unwanted voltages from the air, much as a radio antenna picks up radio signals. These voltage variations, particularly 60 Hz, are then amplified and appear on the record, obscuring the desired biological signal. However, a ground lead may expose the subject to electrical hazard. This chapter discusses safety and ethics in a psychophysiology laboratory.

Keywords: safety; ethics; psychophysiology; laboratories; grounding; ground lead; electrical signals

Chapter.  2528 words. 

Subjects: Psychology

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