Justifying deception in social science research
© Society for Applied Philosophy, 1999. The use of deceptive techniques is common in social science research. It is argued that the use of such techniques is incompatible with the standard of informed consent, which is widely employed in the ethical evaluation of research involving human subjects. A number of proposals to justify the use of deceptions in social science research are examined, in the face of its apparent incompatibility with the standard of informed consent, and found to be inadequate. An alternative method of justification is outlined, which enables some deceived participants in social science research to rationally and autonomously choose to participate in that research. The alternative method of justification appeals to the idea of indirect consent, which is introduced. It is argued that research subjects who receive reliable testimony regarding research procedures can sometimes be placed in a position to rationally and autonomously consent indirectly to participation in experiments and studies, even if these involve significant deceptions.