General Principles of the APA Ethics Code for Psychologists

General Principles of the APA Ethics Code for Psychologists


Readings on Ethics for Psychologists

The APA Ethics Code – General Principles

What Are Ethical Principles?

This section consists of General Principles. General Principles, as opposed to Ethical Standards, are aspirational in nature. Their intent is to guide and inspire psychologists toward the very highest ethical ideals of the profession. General Principles, in contrast to Ethical Standards, do not represent obligations and should not form the basis for imposing sanctions. Relying upon General Principles for either of these reasons distorts both their meaning and purpose.

The Principles are the source from which the Standards are derived. For example,

  • Principle A: Beneficence and Nonmaleficence
    “Psychologists strive to benefit those with whom they work and take care to do no harm. In their professional actions, psychologists seek to safeguard the welfare and rights of those with whom they interact professionally and other affected persons… Because psychologists’ scientific and professional judgments and actions may affect the lives of others, they are alert to and guard against personal, financial, social, organizational, or political factors that might lead to misuse of their influence.”
  • Principle C: Integrity
    “Psychologists seek to promote accuracy, honesty, and truthfulness in the science, teaching, and practice of psychology.”
  • Principle E: Respect for People’s Rights and Dignity
    “Psychologists respect the dignity and worth of all people, and the rights of individuals to privacy, confidentiality, and self-determination.”

From these Principles we derive the more specific Standard 2: Competence and Standard 9: Assessment, and from these Standards we derive specific ethical responsibilities in assessment work to

  • avoid harming others through assessment
  • do our best to truthfully convey our findings, and, in as much as we have the power to do so, assure that others who repeat our findings do as well
  • include limitations and weaknesses of our assessment work
  • obtain competence before engaging in assessment
  • actively work to retain competency in assessment
  • assure informed consent for the assessment work we do
  • maintain test security and confidentiality