Ethical Aspects of Research Involving Deception
When deception is used in research projects, it must be justified as a necessary part of the study. Special considerations must also be made when conducting research involving deception in order to protect participant rights.
Deception in research can occur by:
- Omission: an important aspect of the study is withheld from the participant
- Commission: the participant is misled about the true purpose of the research
Does the deception improve the internal or external validity of the study?
- Sometimes subjects will change their behavior or responses to a study if the true nature of the investigation was known prior to participating. This can harm the study’s internal or external validity.
Has this deception design been used in a previous study?
- If so, noting this on your application and reporting on any harm (or lack thereof) is useful.
- Were alternative procedures considered and why were these rejected?
Do study risks change based on the use of deception?
- Address whether the presence of deception increases or does not change the risk of harm to the participant
Is the participant aware of their right to withdraw?
- Ensure that your subjects are free to withdraw their data from the study once debriefing has occurred
Debriefing involves explaining to the subjects the true nature of the study after their participation. The following aspects should be considered:
- How will subjects be debriefed?
- Who will debrief them?
- When will the debriefing occur?
- Immediately following participation, partial delay, full delay
- Be sure to justify any delay
Will the debriefing be full (all deceptive aspects of the study revealed) or partial (some deceptive aspects will remain unexplained)?
- If only partially debriefing will be used, justify this in your application
- If full debriefing will be used, consider if the subject be harmed in any way by full debriefing