Deception involves intentionally providing inaccurate or false information to subjects. Examples include:
- In order to induce stress, study personnel tell subjects that they will give a speech that evaluators will observe on video, when the subjects’ speeches will not actually be recorded or observed.
- Study personnel tell subjects that they will be engaged in a cooperative task with other subjects, but instead subjects will actually be interacting with study personnel.
- Study personnel tell subjects that they will play a competitive game involving financial rewards based on their performance. In fact, the game is rigged and rewards are not based on performance.
Incomplete disclosure involves withholding information about the study purpose and/or reason for procedures, in order to prevent biasing the results. Examples include:
- In order to examine how race and gender impact people’s perception of conflicts between individuals, subjects review several hypothetical scenarios describing confrontations between various characters, which include stock photos to represent the individuals involved, and then are asked to complete questions regarding their perception of each of the individuals involved. The subjects are not informed that the race and gender of the characters are manipulated by the researchers but subjects will know that the scenarios are hypothetical.
- To further understanding of how representations of same sex couples depicted in commercials influence consumer behavior, subjects are exposed to advertisements featuring gay couples and straight couples while their heart rate, facial muscle movement, and sweat responses are recorded. Subjects are informed that their reactions to the commercials are being studied, but not that the researchers are examining if the sexual orientation of characters in commercials influences them.
Limits on Incomplete disclosure:
- Incomplete disclosure does not extend to withholding information from subjects about what they will be asked to do. A protocol that informs subjects that they will be asked to complete one 60-minute session but provides no information about the contents of this session would not be considered incomplete disclosure.
- Protocols that involve manipulating an individual’s environment, without that person’s prospective agreement to participate in research, are not considered incomplete disclosure. In such cases disclosure to subjects is entirely absent, not merely incomplete.
Disclosed concealment involves the withholding of certain information from subjects in cases where subjects consent specifically to the lack of disclosure. An example is a double-blind, placebo-controlled trial in which subjects will have information regarding their assignment to a particular study arm withheld; however, subjects are informed of the study arms and that their assignment will not be disclosed. Disclosed concealment is considered neither deception nor incomplete disclosure.