Negating Deception in Research

Negating Deception in Research
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  • 0:07 Deception in Research
  • 2:07 Debriefing
  • 4:00 Example
  • 5:07 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Devin Kowalczyk

Devin has taught psychology and has a master's degree in clinical forensic psychology. He is working on his PhD.

Sometimes learning something through research requires a little bit of lying - nothing too big but just enough where the subject is misdirected. But what happens after the experiment? What are your responsibilities as a researcher?

Deception in Research

Using deception in research is no easy feat. Deception means to intentionally mislead, provide incorrect information, or omit relevant information. There are two big components in gaining approval to run a research study that involves purposefully misleading people. Deception in psychological research must be a necessary part of the study, and the possible scientific, educational, or applied value must justify the deception. A researcher must demonstrate that there is no other way to obtain the same results if deception were not part of the study.

To continue a personal preference for the Milgram study, we'll look at this experiment that could not have been done without deception. This experiment created an environment where a person thought they were administering shocks to another person whenever they made a mistake. The shocked person was in another room, so the only contact the subject had was through a microphone. Over time, the shocks, administered through a large, black box, would be increased.

The person being shocked on the other end of the microphone would complain of a heart condition and eventually fall silent. The person administering the shocks would be asked to continue shocking the person even though they weren't responding. The trick was the person being shocked was faking. There were no shocks. There was only a person in a room thinking they had killed someone. Can you imagine walking into an experiment and the researcher tells you, 'You will be reading word pairs and making a buzzing noise. The person on the other end of the microphone will pretend to die.'

A more typical use of deception is the use of confederates (people working for the researcher) in social experiments where you plant them amongst a group of people and have them try and sway group opinion. The second big hurdle to using deception in a research study is planning a way to negate the deception, usually by debriefing.

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