Informational and relational meanings of deception: Implications for deception methods in research

Ethics and Behavior 11 (2):115 – 130 (2001)
Abstract
A lively exchange sparked by Ortmann and Hertwig's (1997) call to outlaw deception in psychological research was intensified by underlying differences in the meaning of deception. The conception held by Broder (1998), who defended deception, would restrict research more than Ortmann and Hertwig's (1997, 1998) conception. Historically, a similar difference in conceptions has been embedded in the controversy over deception in research. The distinction between informational and relational views of deception elucidates this difference. In an informational view, giving false information, allowing false assumptions, and withholding information are deceptive. In a relational view these failures to inform are not necessarily deceptive. Rather, relational criteria, including denial of right to the truth, betrayal of trust, and impairment of commerce with reality finally determine what is deceptive. Analyses reveal that fewer research procedures are deceptive on a relational view than on an informational view. Surveys of the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology correspondingly show that a lower percentage of studies are deceptive on the relational view applied in this analysis than on the informational view applied by Sieber, Iannuzzo, and Rodriguez (1995). If restrictions on deception keep increasing, more studies will be vetoed on the currently salient informational view than would be vetoed on a relational view.
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