Respect for the dignity of people: What does this principle mean in practice?

Document Type

Journal Article


Taylor and Francis


Faculty of Health, Engineering and Science


School of Psychology and Social Science/Social Justice Research Centre




This article was originally published as: Allan, A. , & Davidson, G. (2013). Respect for the dignity of people: What does this principle mean in practice?. Australian Psychologist, 48(5), 345-352. Original article available here


Researchers have found that disrespectful behaviour can have a notable psychological impact on victims and observers thereof. It is not surprising, therefore, that law and all the major psychology codes of ethics acknowledge the principle of respect for the dignity of persons. The practical implications of this principle, however, are not clear. In this article we argue, with reference to the philosophical roots of the principle, that there are rules of manners in all societies that describe how people should demonstrate respect for persons. Generally, the profession cannot require psychologists to adhere to the rules of manners, not even those that demonstrate respect for persons, but it can, and does, prescribe to psychologists how they should act while they practice as psychologists. We proceed to examine the principles and standards of the Australian Psychology Society's Code of Ethics (2007) that require psychologists to demonstrate respect for persons while acting as psychologists.