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Ethical Issues Of Deception In Psychological Research

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Ethical Issues of Deception in Psychological Research

Ethical issues are a major area for concern in psychological studies,

and that in some way or another ethical guidelines are compromised.

Deception is one of the most controversial aspects in psychological

research. The definition of the word deception is not always clear and

is defined differentially by different people. An example of this is

Hey (1998) who pointed out that Ð''there is a world of difference

between not telling participants' things and telling them the wrong

things'. On the other hand Adair, Dushenko and Lindsay (1985) define

deception in psychological research as: the provision of information

that actively misleads participants regarding some aspect of the

study. Christensen (1977) defines deception in psychological research

as an explicit misstatement of fact.

For the purpose of this essay I am going to use the definition of

deception cited in the Oxford English Dictionary. Here it defines

deception as untruthful, misleading and dishonesty.

The first reference to the ethics of deception to have appeared in

psychological research is credited to W.E. Vinacke in his 1954

American psychologist article entitled Ð''Deceiving Experimental

Subjects'. In that article he raised the question of the Ð''proper

balance between the interests of science and the thoughtful treatment

of research subjects' (Korn, 1997).

Despite Vinacke's attempt to stimulate discussion in the field of such

ethical issues, the message was largely ignored. This was until nine

years later when the controversy surrounding Stanley Milgram's

obedience experiments (1963) came to light. As a result of these

experiments, Diane Baumrind (1985) began a vigorous campaign against

the use of deception in psychological research.

The controversy regarding the use of deception arises because it may

have an effect on participants' willingness to take part in

psychological research. Indeed this controversy has resulted in much

research on this. However, the findings have been contradictory.

Some research has shown that the use of deception negatively affects

participant's perception of researchers and psychology consequently

the likelihood that they will take part in psychological research

again, and whether they will complete the study they are participating

in. For example Oliansky (1991) reported that participants who had

been deceived in psychological research reported strong negative

feelings in that they said that they were unlikely to take part again.

Therefore this shows that the use of deception does affect

participant's willingness to take part in psychological studies.

On the other hand there is evidence that people actually enjoy being

deceived and

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