Contemplation: Beneficence

Clarification for Beneficence

Beneficence is categorized in ethic principle, which is consider as important in human centered design work. However, even though it is important, people who haven’t read Belmont’s report would misunderstand this. They will think that “maximizing benefits for individuals, would be the only concern in principle of beneficence, which is totally false. Nevertheless, this principle has to satisfy two rules by the Belmont report; “1. Do not harm and 2. maximize possible benefits and minimize possible harms” (1978). It is a key for this principle of beneficence that it needs to not harm people and minimize the possible harms.

Difficulties in applying this principle

In real life, it would be hard to apply beneficence principle when it is hard to figure out either possible benefits outweighs the risk or risk outweighs the benefits. In the beginning stages, when you just start creating something, it is hard figure out if the benefits from the result is greater than the risk or not, while you would find it out in the last stages, which is probably too late for them at that point. For example, a risk we can think about is information leakage. By collecting personal information data for some apps, privacy information can be leaked to public. However, the problem is while people think that personal information collected by apps secretly is bad, the reality is different. They collect personal data to personalize the app for them to use the app better and in easier way. In this case, it would be hard to apply this principle, beneficence to be applied.

Application in Research Example

The microwave usability testing can be used as a research example in this case, which is principle of beneficence. For 3 random users, our group asked to do 3 different tasks interacting with the microwave. User’s benefit that can be figured out in this usability testing is that suggesting improvements to designer for redesigning the microwave in the future for user’s conveniences and to be more user’s friendly. For example, one of the user complained that the microwave plate, which is made of glass is pretty heavy to remove whenever that person needs to take it off to clean it. For the designer in the future, he or she can come up with lighter plate, which can be removed easily even with one hand. Nevertheless, the risk than can happen in this situation is that user’s own habits can be released, which is personal information. Also, standing in front of the microwave can harm people’s health. When you are deciding either the benefits outweighs the risk or not, the moderator can ask the users about how do they care about releasing their personal habits, or if they think it would be harmful for them to standing in front of the microwave while it is working. This step can help figuring out if the benefits by making the microwave more user friendly outweighs the risk, which are concerns about personal information leakage and health damage affected by the microwave.

Application in Design Example

I can apply principle of beneficence in my interaction design, which was the app I created. The app was created to help the scientists to find relationship between population of stray dogs and cats and the level of poverty of city. For this app, scientists need data collected by citizens. For scientists in this case, they can gain data and obtain their goals, which will help taking care of stray animals because they can focus on low income city if they find out that if there is a relationships between population of stray animals and level of poverty of city. Also, by using this app, for citizens, they can earn Starbucks gift cards, and also find their lost dogs and cats. Nevertheless, for them to use this app, it needs to collect people’s information about their location for them to find where stray animals at. This would create problems in personal information leakage, by sending their location. Also, for scientists, by receiving wrong information from citizens, they can have hard time getting the true result for their research. However, there is a way to figure out if the benefit outweighs the risk in this case. Scientist actually can do this activity by themselves first and compare with the data collected by citizens and figure out what the difference is. If the percentage of error from data collected by scientist and citizens is small, then it means the benefit outweighs the risk. Also, for citizens, I, who created the app can ask or give them a survey such as “Do you care about releasing your information about the location” or “how did you guys like this app?”. The survey answers can find out if the benefit outweighs the risk for citizens.


United States. (1978). The Belmont report: Ethical principles and guidelines for the protection of human subjects of research.

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