Deception in research involves withholding information from or deliberately giving false information to human participants about the hypothesis or methods of a research project.
Deception should be employed only when there are no viable alternative procedures. The IRB may find the use of deception acceptable when, and to the extent which, it is unavoidably required by the research to be done, and when the benefits outweigh the risks.
Problems arise when major deception is involved. For example, if an investigator leads a subject to believe that they have committed a crime, has a disease, or has some serious character flaw, then the merit of the investigation must clearly counterbalance the risk to the subject for the research to be approved.
Deception cannot be used in order to obtain consent from human participants. From the APA guide to ethics (www.apa.org/ethics): 8.07
Where deception is a necessary part of an experiment, the IRB will generally require that preliminary quasi-consent be obtained, in which the investigator informs the subject that the experiment cannot be described fully in advance.
Preliminary quasi-consent may be provided verbally or in written
The research must qualify for an alteration of consent for quasi-consent, and therefore must meet the following criteria: 1) the research involves no more than minimal risk to the subjects; 2) the waiver will not adversely affect the rights and welfare of the subjects; 3) the research could not practicably be carried out without the alteration; and 4) whenever appropriate, the subjects will be provided with additional pertinent information after participation (i.e., debriefed).
To ameliorate the effects of unavoidable deception, the IRB requires debriefing of the deceived subjects.
Debriefing after deception has several goals: (1) to repair the breach of informed consent entailed by the deception, (2) to remove any confusions or defuse any tensions that might have been generated by the deception, (3) to make it clear especially to younger subjects that deception is permissible only in exceptional circumstances, and (4) to repair (as much as possible) the breach of trust that has occurred not only between the investigator and the subject, but (potentially) between all researchers and all subjects.
The debriefing form must include the following information:
The IRB may require that the study
The IRB recognizes that there are rare instances in which no consent can be obtained or debriefing done: e.g., if the researcher pretended to lie unconscious on a sidewalk and noted how many and what sorts of persons stopped, attempted assistance, or simply