Subjects are told language ability is being studied and asked to construct grammatically correct sentences using a set of words. One group is given words commonly associated with old age. Another group is given words without any such connotations. As the subjects leave the study room, the researcher measures the time each takes to walk down the hall. Those in the first group take significantly longer. Before the subjects leave the building, the investigator stops them and explains the full experiment.
Adapted from: Harvard University, "Human Subject Protection."
One IRB found deception acceptable in this study because the research could not be conducted with the subjects' knowledge and it poses little or no risk to the subjects. Explaining the goal of measuring walking speed would make subjects conscious of the way they walk and might well change it. This measurement consists of observation of commonplace behavior.
UW-Stout's IRB will review any research involving deception closely. The investigator should be able to demonstrate that:
- Deception is necessary to conduct the study;
- The subjects will be debriefed after the experiment is completed;
- The subjects will not be exposed to more than minimal risk; and
- The withheld information is not likely to change people's decisions to participate in the study.