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Social contract theory and the ethics of deception in consumer research

Author: Smith, N. Craig ; Kimmel, Allan J. ; Klein, Jill GabrielleINSEAD Area: Marketing Series: Working Paper ; 2009/04/ISIC/MKT Publisher: Fontainebleau : INSEAD Social Innovation Centre (ISIC) 2009.Language: EnglishDescription: 51 p.Type of document: INSEAD Working Paper Online Access: Click here Abstract: Deception of research participants is a pervasive ethical issue in experimental consumer research. Content analyses find as many as three-quarters of published human participant studies in our field involved some form of deception and almost all of these deceptive studies employed experimental methodologies. However, researchers have little guidance on the acceptability of this use of deception, notwithstanding the codes of root disciplines. We turn to the theories of moral philosophy and use social contract theory to identify conditions under which deception may be justified as morally permissible. Seven principles to guide research practice are formulated and their implications for consumer researchers and others are identified, together with practical recommendations for decision making on deception studies.
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Deception of research participants is a pervasive ethical issue in experimental consumer research. Content analyses find as many as three-quarters of published human participant studies in our field involved some form of deception and almost all of these deceptive studies employed experimental methodologies. However, researchers have little guidance on the acceptability of this use of deception, notwithstanding the codes of root disciplines. We turn to the theories of moral philosophy and use social contract theory to identify conditions under which deception may be justified as morally permissible. Seven principles to guide research practice are formulated and their implications for consumer researchers and others are identified, together with practical recommendations for decision making on deception studies.

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