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
The IRB provides the following templates for preparing a debriefing statement:
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