Ethical trends in marketing and psychological research

Ethics and Behavior 11 (2):131 – 149 (2001)
Abstract
In contrast to the behavioral sciences, the nature and impact of ethical procedures such as informed consent and constraints on the use of deception have been addressed infrequently in the marketing discipline. This article describes an initial investigation into the methodological and ethical practices reported in published marketing research articles since the mid-1970s. Empirical articles appearing in the Journal of Marketing Research and the Journal of Consumer Research between 1975 and 1976, 1989 and 1990, and 1996 and 1997 were coded according to methodological and ethical practices employed and compared with recent trends in the social psychological research literature. The marketing findings revealed an increase over time in laboratory experimentation, the utilization of active deception and debriefing, and the use of university student samples. Although the results suggest that marketing researchers use deception with less frequency and intensity overall than social psychologists, the observed rise in deception procedures in marketing investigations stands in stark contrast to the situation in social psychology, where deception rates have been declining along with a corresponding increase in nonexperimental methodologies and nonstudent samples. The article concludes with a call for greater attention to the ethical, methodological, and disciplinary consequences of the increasing use of deception in marketing research and emphasizes the need for more complete reporting of ethical procedures in published research.
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