Deception Research Involving Children:
Ethical Practices and Paradoxes
Celia B. Fisher
Center for Ethics Education
This commentary draws on the thoughtful contemplation and innovative procedures
volving children. The discussion is organized around 4 key decision points for the
conduct of responsible deception research involving children: (a) evaluating the sci-
entific validity and social value of deception research within the context of alterna-
tive methodologies, (b) avoiding and minimizing experimental risk, (c) the use of
remedy and risk.
Keywords: children, deception, risk
Since Milgram (1963) published his well known obedience experiments, the use
of deception in psychological research has been widely practiced and ethically
debated (Baumrind, 1964, 1985, 1990; Kelman, 1967; Milgram, 1964; Sieber,
1983a; Sieber, Iannuzzo, & Rodriguez, 1995). Deceptive techniques intention-
ally withhold information or misinform participants about the purpose of the
study, the experimental procedures or equipment, or the roles of research team
members (Sieber, 1982). By their very nature, deception studies compromise an
individual’s ability to make a fully informed decision about research participa-
tion. Some studies designed to examine negative emotional states or antisocial
behaviors may intentionally provoke such feelings or behaviors. At the same
time, deception research can have the advantage of keeping participants naïve
ETHICS & BEHAVIOR, 15(3), 271–287
Copyright © 2005, Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Inc.
Correspondence should be addressed to Celia B. Fisher, Center for Ethics Education, Dealy Hall,
Fordham University, 441 E. Fordham Road, Bronx, NY 10458. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
about the purpose and procedures of a study, thereby increasing methodological
realism and spontaneous response to experimental manipulation. Ethical argu-
ments have thus focused on whether deceptive research practices violate moral
principles to respect individual autonomy and to do no harm or are justified on
the basis of their potential societal benefit. Children’s dependence on adult deci-
sion making and maturational vulnerabilities in the cognitive skills necessary to
understand the nature of research and deception add levels of complexity to ethi-
cal decisions to conduct deception studies with child participants.
moral rightness of deception research has produced federal regulations and scien-
tific codes of conduct that permit decisions to employ deceptive procedures but
nize that the decision to employ deceptive research methods requires special ethi-
cal consideration regarding participant autonomy and harm but leaves the
evaluation of each individual study’s ethical acceptability to the judgment of the
investigator and institutional review boards (IRBs).
Although there have been a fair number of metaethical articles and empirical
studies on deception involving adult research participants (e.g., Milgram, 1964;
Ross, Lepper, & Hubbard, 1975; S. S. Smith & Richardson, 1983), there is a pau-
city of moral debate or data on the ethical justification for and effect of deception
research on children (Fisher, Hoagwood, & Jensen, 1996; Goodman & Tobey,
tion represent a major step forward for the field of developmental psychology in
are planned for research involving children, (b) the ethical safeguards essential to
the responsible conduct of deception research, and (c) data on participant and pa-
rental reactions to planned procedures that can contribute to the continued evolu-
tion of moral thought in the field.
The articles in the special section by Hubbard (2005/this issue), Underwood
(2005/this issue), and Hinshaw (2005/this issue) describe the scientific justifica-
tion for and the ethical dilemmas of conducting laboratory research on children’s
anger and aggression, most notably the need for and issues raised by the use of de-
ceptive methods. This commentary draws on the thoughtful contemplation and in-
novative procedures described in the special section articles as well as current pro-
of deception research involving children. The discussion is organized around four
key decision points for the conduct of responsible deception research involving
children: (a) evaluating the scientific validity and social value of deception re-
search within the context of alternative methodologies, (b) avoiding and minimiz-
safeguards, and (d) debriefing as both remedy and risk.
SCIENTIFIC VALIDITY, SOCIAL VALUE,
AND EVALUATION OF ALTERNATIVES
According to the APA’s Ethical Principles of Psychologists and Code of Conduct
applied value (Standard 8.07a, Deception in Research). The centrality of scientific
such as to yield fruitful results for the good of society” (Principle 2).
When evaluating the potential benefits of research using deception, investigators
data and conclusions that can yield scientific facts relevant to the question under
study (Fisher & Fyrberg, 1994). The ethical justification for the scientific validity
of deceptive studies rests in part on confidence that participants find the experi-
mental situation to be realistic and take it seriously (Aronson & Carlsmith, 1968;
Freedman, 1987; Rutstein, 1969).
of experimental realism and the steps they have taken to ensure their methods for
investigating children’s anger reactions, response to peer rejection, or antisocial
behaviors have face validity for the children and rigorous experimental controls.
dren’s antisocial behaviors in response to temptation, was realistic in light of the
goals and activities of the summer camp the children were attending. Underwood
(2005/this issue) and Hubbard (2005/this issue) provided extensive and standard-
the actors’behaviors during each experimental episode.
cial, or educational value because the hypothesis itself is trivial or the data cannot
be effectively translated into the body of scientific knowledge or into useful appli-
cation (Fisher & Fyrberg, 1994; Freedman, 1987; Sieber, 1990). Thus, the evalua-
cles in this special section persuasively describe the scientific and practical value
ETHICAL PARADOXES AND DECEPTION RESEARCH
of their topics. Hubbard (2005/this issue) and Underwood (2005/this issue) cite a
body of empirical work demonstrating the relation of anger regulation and expres-
sion to social success and the lack of such skills to maladaptive reactive aggres-
sion. Hinshaw’s (2005/this issue) literature review illustrates the predictive rela-
tion between children’s covert antisocial behaviors and adolescent delinquency.
Scientific validity and social value are necessary but not sufficient justification for
they might not otherwise agree. Ethical decisions to employ deceptive techniques
must also demonstrate that nondeceptive alternative procedures do not offer suffi-
cient scientific controls to test the hypothesis under investigation (APA, 2002,
Standard 8.07a,). Failure to use scientifically valid nondeceptive alternative meth-
ods simply because of inconvenience or financial cost may under some circum-
stances be a violation of this standard (Fisher, 2003a).
ing nondeceptive alternative methods. Hubbard (2005/this issue) and Underwood
(2005/this issue) explain the weaknesses of alternative methods compared to labo-
ratory-based provocation designs to study children’s anger and aggression in re-
sponse to peer behaviors. Hubbard cites the lack of reliable and well validated
self-report or observational measures of children’s anger and notes that, even if
such measures were developed, it is questionable whether global ratings by adults
could capture critical aspects of children’s anger-regulation processes. Under-
wood’s decision to use provocation rested in part on evidence that children’s
self-reports of emotional responses are only weakly correlated with observed an-
gry behaviors (Underwood & Bjornstad, 2001). Hinshaw (2005/this issue) dis-
cusses how global ratings of children’s covert antisocial behaviors by parents or
issue), and Underwood (2005/this issue) rejected the use of naturalistic observa-
in naturalistic settings would take prohibitively long periods; (b) naturalistic ob-
equately compare responses of socially vulnerable and nonvulnerable groups; (c)
laboratory techniques permit establishment of baseline periods and analysis of re-
lations among observational data, physiological measures, and self-report; and (d)
by definition such behaviors occur outside of adult supervision.
Hinshaw (2005/this issue), Hubbard (2005/this
The Methodological Paradox
psychologists to resolve the ethical tension between their fiduciary responsibility
to produce scientifically valid data and their obligation to respect the autonomy
and privacy rights of research participants by privileging the former. This bias to-
ward the value of scientifically valid and valuable knowledge over individual au-
tonomy reflects the utilitarian metaethical values ubiquitous in Western science
(Mill, 1861/1957). With its focus on utility and the “greater good,” the utilitarian
framework finds that benefits to science and society can outweigh the rights of in-
dividual participants to self-determination and privacy (Fisher, 1999). For exam-
ple, federal regulations permit IRBs to waive all or part of informed consent, pa-
than minimal risk, (b) the research does not adversely affect participant rights and
welfare, (c) the research could not be practically carried out without the waiver,
and (d) whenever appropriate participants are provided additional postexperi-
mental information (DHHS, 2001, 45CFR46.116d and 408c). Thus, within the
utilitarian cost–benefit framework of current scientific regulations and codes of
conduct, investigators’ obligation to protect individual autonomy may be super-
seded by their responsibility to produce reliable data that can provide future bene-
fits to society (Fisher, 1999).
As the ethical choices made by the special section investigators illustrate, the
ethical responsibility of investigators to select methods providing the greatest sci-
ically controversial deceptive practices. The need to standardize peer provocation
led Underwood (2005/this issue) and Hubbard (2005/this issue) to create a setting
in which children are given the false impression that they are losing a competitive
game to a peer who chooses to provoke them. The difficulty of observing chil-
dren’s covert antisocial behaviors led Hinshaw to use a controlled-stimulus setting
in which participants are led to falsely believe they will fail an academic test.
AVOIDING AND MINIMIZING HARM
Do the contributions of an experiment to science and society override psychologi-
cal scientists’obligation to do no harm? Even if deceptive techniques have signifi-
cant scientific, educational, or social value and thus meet the criteria of Standard
8.07a, Standard 8.07b prohibits withholding information or misleading prospec-
tive participants about procedures causing physical pain or severe emotional dis-
on the duration of physical pain or whether severe emotional harm can be allevi-
ated during debriefing procedures (Fisher, 2003a). It is clear from the descriptions
ETHICAL PARADOXES AND DECEPTION RESEARCH
of methods in the special section articles that none of the studies were designed to
cause child participants physical pain or severe emotional distress.
The APA Ethics Code standards on deception do not prohibit participant expo-
tions permitting investigators to conduct research involving children that presents
no greater than minimal risk (DHHS, 2001, 45CFR46.404). For guidance on the
use of mildly discomforting procedures, psychologists can turn to APA (2002)
Ethics Code Standard 3.04, Avoiding Harm. Under this standard, psychologists
must take reasonable steps to avoid harming research participants and to minimize
harm when it is foreseeable and unavoidable. Similarly, under federal regulation
45CFR46.111a1 (DHHS, 2001), IRB approval of research depends in part on
judging that research risks are minimized by procedures that are consistent with
sound research design and that do not unnecessarily expose participants to risk.
Minimal Risk Research
Under federal regulations, research risks are considered minimal if the probability
and magnitude of harm or discomfort anticipated in the research are not greater in
and of themselves than those ordinarily encountered in daily life or during the per-
45CFR46.102i). It is reasonable to agree with the authors of the special section ar-
ticles that the adverse consequences of behaviors provoked, tempted, or observed
narily encounter in their daily lives. All children have interactions with bullying,
teasing, and cheating peers (anger-provoking situations created in Hubbard’s,
2005/this issue, and Underwood’s, 2005/this issue, studies). Adults often discover
antisocial behaviors utilized by Hinshaw, 2005/this issue).
is just to systematically expose children to peer maltreatment simply because such
sue) worried about the “primacy effect” (p. 266) of guilt or shame experienced by
effect on child actors of teaching them to cheat and bully participants and to be the
greatest risk to children participating in deception research may occur during de-
by adults or that their private behaviors have been recorded.
Procedural Safeguards to Minimize Risk
Each of the investigators strove to reduce the possibility of negative participant re-
actions to the minimal risk procedures. Hubbard (2005/this issue) and Underwood
(2005/this issue) embedded 10 min of peer provocation in a lengthy positive play
experience for both the child participants and actors. The time taken to ensure this
safeguard was in fact much longer than that required to collect the data of interest.
The laboratory nature of the anger-provocation studies permitted Hubbard and
Underwood to set up monitoring systems to identify behaviors such as cruel teas-
ing, crying, or physical aggression that would be harmful to participants or child
served. The investigators also permitted parents to observe children from behind a
one-way mirror and reminded parents they could withdraw their child at any time.
Hinshaw (2005/this issue) safeguarded against violating participants’ privacy by
demonstrating that videotaping is not necessary to evaluate whether children
cheated, stole, or destroyed property.
As an added child protection, those investigators conducting laboratory studies
bard (2005/this issue) and Underwood (2005/this issue) went further and required
informed consent from child actors. Some of the authors also describe their child
ical value of assent to deception research is questionable.
CAN CHILDREN ASSENT TO DECEPTION RESEARCH?
The moral claims of children on researchers are no different from those of adults.
They have the right to assume investigators will communicate with them honestly,
2003b). The APA Ethics Code (2002) and federal assent guidelines recognize this
claim by requiring an increasingly personalized progression of child protections
veloping persons. First, IRBs decide whether risks and prospective benefits are
ethically justified for the general child population to be recruited (APA, 2002,
Standard 8.01 Institutional Approval; DHHS, 2001, 45CFR46.111). Second, par-
ents decide whether the risk–benefit balance is appropriate for their children’s
unique characteristics and experiences. Last, children assent or dissent to partici-
pation based on whether the research procedures and purposes, as they understand
ETHICAL PARADOXES AND DECEPTION RESEARCH
them, represent an activity they want to participate in at a given time and place
(APA, 2002, Standards 3.10b and 8.02; DHHS, 2001, 45CFR46 4.04-4.08; Fisher,
The Assent Paradox
The use of assent procedures in deception research is an example of the moral am-
biguity surrounding respect for autonomy inherent in professional ethics codes
tional community no longer trusted scientists to make decisions that would serve
the best interests of participants. As articulated in the Nuremberg Code (1946), in-
formed consent of the participant rather than morally responsible decisions by sci-
entists came to be seen as the primary means of protecting participant autonomy
Deception research requires a contorted translation of child assent (as it does
for consent for deception studies involving adults). During the assent process, the
investigator intentionally gives the participant false information about the purpose
and nature of the study. Assent for deception research thus distorts the in-
make decisions about the type of experimental procedures they will be exposed to,
when in fact they do not.
Children’s Ability to Understand and Their Right
To Be Informed About Research Procedures
Baumrind (1979) distinguished between nonintentional deception—in which fail-
ure to fully inform cannot be avoided because of the complexity of the informa-
participation that the subject might otherwise decline. Creating respectful and
compassionate research contexts requires understanding of children’s ways of
thinking, cognitive and social strengths and weaknesses, life experiences, and
practical concerns (Fisher, 2003b).
Although children’s assent-relevant cognitive maturity and experiences are not
can express participation preferences based on their understanding of research
goals, procedures, risks, and confidentiality; that research produces information;
and that their participation can help others. Even younger children understand that
away from something they like to do (Abramovitch, Freedman, Henry, & Van
Brunschot, 1995; Abramovitch, Freedman, Thoden, & Nikolich, 1991; Broome,
1999; Nannis, 1991).
The assent paradox extends to the assumption that children feel free to with-
articles, all the investigators informed and repeatedly reminded children through-
out the studies of their right to withdraw. However, studies suggest that many
young children and even young adolescents do not fully understand or believe that
Abramovitch, & Keating, 1998; Ruck, Keating, Abramovitch, & Koegl, 1998). In
this regard, perceived power inequities may present significant obstacles to chil-
dren’s voluntary participation.
whether children, despite parental permission, would agree to participate in the
dren agree to participate in a study if they knew it would provoke angry feelings,
was rigged for them to lose a game, or would expose them to peer harassment?
Would they assent to participate if they knew their responses to peer provocation
cheat or steal and adults would know if they gave in to these temptations?
Some have suggested that during the consent stage, psychologists using deceptive
procedures involving adults forewarn participants that deception might be used
dividuals’ actual willingness to participate, it raises methodological issues chal-
lenging the scientific validity of data collection. For example, forewarning pro-
spective participants about certain elements of the study could create demand
characteristics, cause participant hypothesizing about investigators’true motives,
or threaten random sampling by discouraging participation (Resnick & Schwartz,
One wonders whether the investigators conducting the laboratory deception
bard’s (2005/this issue) or Underwood’s (2005/this issue) studies might have been
informed there was a possibility they would lose some of the games or that other
children might get carried away with the competition. Hinshaw (2005/this issue)
might have mentioned that some children might find the testing situation stressful
or frustrating. Given the fact that these minimal risks arise in children’s everyday
experiences, such forewarning might not have created undue suspicion about re-
search procedures. Future developmental research using deception might include
comparative data on the effect of forewarning on decisions to participate and par-
ticipant reactions to planned procedures.
ETHICAL PARADOXES AND DECEPTION RESEARCH
DEBRIEFING: REMEDY OR RISK?
The APA (2002) Ethics Code requires psychologists to explain any deception that
is an integral feature of the design and conduct of the experiment to participants as
early as feasible (Standard 8.07c, Deception in Research). During debriefing in-
vestigators must explain the nature, results, and conclusions of the research and
correct any participant misconceptions of which the researcher is aware (Standard
The special section authors demonstrated sensitivity and respect in the design
and implementation of their debriefing procedures. Underwood (2005/this issue)
used a “process debriefing” that started with discussion of whether anything
seemed strange, slowly introduced information about the child actor, let the chil-
dren figure out the deception without being specific, and then reminded them that
the studies were conducted to help understand how children handle angry feelings
when they lose a game to a child who cheats or who is mean. Hubbard’s (2005/this
issue) and Underwood’s debriefings were aimed at building self-esteem and cor-
recting misimpressions. They made thoughtful efforts to explain that the partici-
of time was left for questions.
Hinshaw (2005/this issue) decided to debrief in small groups rather than indi-
vidually to decrease individual stigmatization, to avoid having team members an-
swering questions about whether they knew the results of a specific child’s assess-
ment session, and to avoid compelling a child to confess or lie. Children were also
given the opportunity to speak with an individual counselor.
The Debriefing Paradox
The paradox of debriefing is that the information conveyed may create psycho-
developmental risks might have emerged from the debriefing described in the spe-
cial section articles. First, informing children they have been deceived by the in-
vestigator creates a risk of fostering skepticism and distrust of adults, especially in
the socially vulnerable children recruited for these studies. Hinshaw (2005/this is-
sue) discussed this risk in relation to studies purposefully tempting children to
commit antisocial acts within the context of a camp setting designed to build chil-
dren’s social competence and self-esteem.
A second risk is that on learning of experimental deceit in the anger-provo-
cation paradigms, children might feel used by adults they were taught to trust. Pre-
vious research indicates that being used as a “guinea pig” was of major concern to
adolescents and parents who were asked for their views on the ethics of adolescent
risk research (Fisher & Wallace, 2000). Third, participants may not believe the de-
briefing. Children in the Hubbard (2005/this issue) and Underwood (2005/this is-
sue) studies, when informed that the game was rigged to have them lose, might
conclude that their wins were similarly fabricated, thus defeating the purpose of
the lengthy positive play period provided by the investigators. Children with
ADHD who found they could not answer test questions might continue to believe
their academic skills had not improved. Ross, Lepper, and Hubbard (1975) found
that high school students who experienced induced failure in a deception study
persisted in erroneously believing they had been responsible for the failure, even
Fourth, despite disclaimers from the investigators, given immature recursive
thinking skills, participants and actors in the anger-provocation study, as well as
children who engaged in antisocial behaviors in the temptation and peer aggres-
sion studies, may take away the impression that adults will excuse or not inter-
fere with cheating, stealing, or bullying if it is in the adults’ best interest to ob-
serve these behaviors. Finally, debriefing may inflict painful self-insight
(Baumrind, 1964) regarding a participant’s tendencies toward anger, withdrawal,
or antisocial behaviors, information they are not psychologically prepared to
Evaluating the efficacy of debriefing.
articles were exemplary in their efforts to evaluate the efficacy of ethical safe-
guards. They gave parents and children questionnaires, considered referral op-
truthfulness of children’s reactions to being deceived is, however, difficult to mea-
sure. As Underwood (2005/this issue) reports, children intentionally minimize
emotional reactions in self-reports (Underwood & Bjornstad, 2001). Moreover,
because parents permitted children in these studies to be deceived, participants
may see complaining about the deception following debriefing as conflicting with
Scholars have questioned the adequacy of self-report data following the expe-
rience of being deceived, suggesting that cognitive dissonance, distrust of the in-
vestigator, masochistic obedience, deferential compliance, and embarrassment,
among other mechanisms, may reduce honest responding on the part of the par-
ticipant (Baumrind, 1985; Fisher & Fyrberg, 1994; Rubin, 1985; C. P. Smith,
1981). Research with adults on the efficacy of debriefing procedures has pro-
duced equivocal results. Some studies involving adults indicate that a majority of
participants experience no harm from participation in deceptive research follow-
ing debriefing (Holmes, 1976; Milgram, 1964; S. S. Smith & Richardson, 1983).
(Fillenbaum, 1966; Ring, Wallston, & Corey, 1970; S. S. Smith & Richardson,
The authors of the special section
harmand increased suspiciousness
ETHICAL PARADOXES AND DECEPTION RESEARCH
The precarious value of self-report data following debriefing for deception
deception studies (Fisher & Fyrberg, 1994). Young adults in the Fisher and
Fyrberg study thought debriefing revelations would create participant embarrass-
ment or annoyance with the investigator. Many responded that they would not
communicate their true feelings to the investigator during debriefing out of fear of
being further embarrassed, anger at the deception, or confusion about whether the
debriefing itself was still part of the study.
A Goodness-of-Fit Ethic for Children’s Debriefing
The APA (2002) Ethics Code permits delaying or withholding debriefing when
there is adequate scientific or humane justification for doing so (Standards 8.08b
and c, Debriefing). The small body of research on adults suggests that the moral
justification for debriefing may be misguided. Moreover, it is counterintuitive to
into anger, or tempted into antisocial behaviors, children will nevertheless believe
the investigator is now telling the truth or feel free to share feelings of embarrass-
ment or anger in response to the debriefing.
A common misconception of the ethical value of debriefing is that it provides
an opportunity for the investigator to obtain “deferred” or “retroactive” consent.
Debriefing cannot erase earlier deceptions, violations of autonomy rights, or ob-
pants with information about the true goals and nature of the study, to correct any
misconceptions about the research and their own abilities, and to alleviate any ex-
perimentally induced harm.
the investigator when informed of the deception, (b) debriefing does not in and of
itself lead to psychological discomfort, and (c) the experimenter is aware of any
negative reactions so that he or she may successfully desensitize the participant
(APA, 1973; Mills, 1976; Sieber, 1983b). These are not easy goals to meet. As the
adult literature suggests, participants may not believe an investigator who has just
revealed he or she has lied to them; they may experience shame, anger, or disbelief
when debriefed about the deception and their own behaviors; and they may not be
willing to reveal their emotional reactions to the debriefing investigator they hold
responsible for these reactions.
Children’s understanding of deception.
tocols, ethical decisions to reveal information about the deception during debrief-
ing can draw on a goodness-of-fit approach to evaluate whether debriefing is
developmentally fitted to the participant’s cognitive, moral, and social develop-
In developmental deception pro-
mental level (Fisher, 2003b). Developmentally fitted debriefing procedures that
take into account children’s theory of mind (Hala, Chandler, & Fritz, 1991) can
promote children’s maturing autonomy, trust in adults, and self esteem.
When considering debriefing as an ethical step for deception research, devel-
opmental scientists need to consider whether children in the age group they are
studying have the recursive thinking skills to understand the deception. Research
indicates that children as young as 3 years of age act deceptively and have a
primitive understanding of the difference between truth telling and lying (Chan-
dler, Fritz, & Hala, 1989; Lewis, Stanger, & Sullivan, 1989; Siegal & Peterson,
1996; Talwar, Lee, Bala, & Lindsay, 2002). However, young children are not
able to distinguish between pretending and lying or false beliefs and lying
(Berthoud-Papandropoulou & Kilcher, 2003; Hala, Chandler, & Fritz, 1001;
Ruffman, Olson, Ash, & Keenan, 1993; Taylor, Lussier, & Maring, 2003). Re-
search also suggests that during the middle-school years, children do not incor-
porate intentionality as a defining feature of the concept of deceit (Wimmer,
Gruber, & Perner, 1985). As a consequence, young children may not understand
the experimental purpose of the deception and, if debriefed, might simply con-
clude that researchers are adults who lie. Data collected by the investigators also
raise questions of children’s comprehension of debriefing. For example, Under-
wood (2005/this issue) found that full debriefing did not change children’s be-
liefs about their research participation, suggesting that they did not truly under-
stand the deception.
Eliminating misconceptions without discussing the deception.
pants to the sense of betrayal or confusion that might have arisen if the investiga-
rensically relevant analog data for child-abuse investigations by investigating
whether misleading suggestions could lead preschoolers to erroneously report
dren returned to the lab. With parental permission, half were introduced to a “po-
lice officer” who told them that the adult who had supervised their play 2 weeks
before might have done some bad things and that he needed the children’s help to
Because previous literature suggested that 4-year-olds would not understand if
told about the deception, Goodman and Tobey (1994) took steps to alleviate any
negative reactions to the research. First, children were told that the police officer
had made a mistake and that the playgroup teacher had not done anything wrong.
that nothing bad had happened and that they had had an enjoyable time. A week
later the researchers called the parents to check for any negative reactions.
ETHICAL PARADOXES AND DECEPTION RESEARCH
A SCIENTIFIC ETHIC OF RESPONSIBILITY AND CARE
Ethical decisions are difficult to write about. To do so requires self-reflection and
in this special section have graciously and bravely shared with us their decisions
and concerns about the conduct of deception research involving children. In doing
so they have significantly contributed to the continuous evolution of eth-
ics-in-science decision making. The ethical procedures they describe are models
for best practices for developmental researchers considering deceptive methods.
The ethical concerns they voice reflect the ethical paradoxes inherent in deception
research. Their evaluation of the efficacy of the ethical procedures they selected
represents developmental science at its best. The special section articles illustrate
ciprocal relation with moral values to continuously inform and transform a scien-
tific ethic of responsibility and care.
to psychological research: Knowledge of risks and benefits and voluntariness. Ethics & Behavior, 5,
participation in psychological research: Empirical findings. Child Development, 62, 1100–1109.
American Psychological Association, Committee on Ethical Standards in Psychological Research.
American Psychological Association. (2002). Ethical principles of psychologists and code of conduct.
American Psychologist, 57, 1060–1073.
Aronson, E., & Carlsmith, J. M. (1968). Experimentation in social psychology. In G. Lindzey & E.
Aronson (Eds.), The handbook of social psychology (Vol. 2, pp. 1–79). Reading, MA: Addi-
Baumrind, D. (1964). Some thoughts on ethics of research: After reading Milgram’s “Behavioral study
of obedience.” American Psychologist, 26, 887–896.
Baumrind, D. (1979). IRBs and social science research: The costs of deception. IRB: A Review of Hu-
man Subjects Research, 1, 1–4.
Baumrind, D. (1985). Research using intentional deception: Ethical issues revisited. American Psy-
chologist, 40, 165–174.
Berthoud-Papandropoulou, I., & Kilcher, H. (2003). Is a false belief statement a lie or a truthful
statement? Judgments and explanations of children aged 3 to 8. Developmental Science, 6,
Broome, M. E. (1999). Consent (assent) for research with pediatric patients. Seminars in Oncology
Nursing, 15, 96–103.
dren and youth. Applied Developmental Science, 7, 13–26.
Chandler, M., Fritz, A. S., & Hala, S. (1989). Small-scale deceit: Deception as a marker of two-, three-
and four-year-olds’early theories of mind. Child Development, 60, 1263–1277.
Department of Health and Human Services Code of Federal Regulations, Protection of Human Sub-
jects, 45 C.F.R. § 46 (2001). Retrieved August 31, 2005, from http://ohrp.osophs.dhhs.gov/
Fillenbaum, S. (1966). Prior deception and subsequent experimental performance: The “faithful” sub-
ject. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 4, 532–537.
Fisher, C. B. (1999). Relational ethics and research with vulnerable populations. Reports on research
involving persons with mental disorders that may affect decision-making capacity (Vol. 2, pp.
29–49). Commissioned papers by the National Bioethics Advisory Commission. Rockville, MD:
Fisher, C. B. (2003b). A goodness-of-fit ethic for child assent to non-beneficial research. American
Journal of Bioethics, 3(4), 27–28.
Fisher, C. B., & Fyrberg, D. (1994). Participant partners: College students weigh the costs and benefits
of deceptive research. American Psychologist, 49, 417–427.
Fisher, C. B., Hoagwood, K., & Jensen, P. (1996). Casebook on ethical issues in research with children
and adolescents with mental disorders. In K. Hoagwood, P. Jensen, & C. B. Fisher (Eds.), Ethical is-
sues in research with children and adolescents with mental disorders (pp. 135–238). Hillsdale, NJ:
Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Inc.
W. Tryon (Eds.), Ethics in applied developmental psychology: Emerging issues in an emerging field
(pp. 1–14). Norwood, NJ: Ablex.
and policy implications of research on adolescent risk and psychopathology. Ethics & Behavior, 10,
Freedman, B. (1987). Scientific value and validity as ethical requirements for research: A proposed ex-
plication. IRB: A Review of Human Subjects Research, 9, 7–10.
social research: Surveys and experiments (pp. 40–55). New York: Springer-Verlag.
Goodman, G. S., & Tobey, A. E. (1994). Ethical issues in child witness research. Child Abuse and Ne-
glect, 18, 90–293.
Hala, S., Chandler, M., & Fritz, A. S. (1991). Fledgling theories of mind. Child Development, 62,
Hinshaw, S. P. (2005/this issue). Objective assessment of covert antisocial behavior: Predictive validity
and ethical considerations. Ethics & Behavior, 15, 259–269.
Holmes, D. S. (1976). Debriefing after psychological experiments: 1. Effectiveness of postdeception
dehoaxing. American Psychologist, 31, 858–867.
teractions: Ethical considerations and practical guidelines. Ethics & Behavior, 15, 247–258.
after debriefing: Informed assent, confidentiality, and stopping participation. Child Development,
experiments. Psychological Bulletin, 27, 1–11.
ETHICAL PARADOXES AND DECEPTION RESEARCH