What is Deception in Psychology? with Proper Definition and Brief Explanation

What is meant by deception is an important topic in the field of psychology. Especially in the case of research, it is a moot topic, as it creates a dilemma as to how fair it is to mislead the participants of a particular research to obtain high-quality information. It is true that since psychology is the study of the mental processes and behavior of human beings, the awareness of being observed or used for research can alter the natural behavior of individuals. It is as a solution to this problem that deception is generally used.

Definition of deception in psychology

Cheating can be defined as deliberately misleading an individual for a particular gain. When applying this definition in the context of psychological research, deception takes place where research subjects, who participate in a particular research, are given false or misleading information to capture the reality of their responses or behavior. Especially in behavioral studies, the importance of this lack of awareness of reality is optimal, since it creates the perfect condition to unveil reality.

Deception of research subjects is accepted under certain conditions:

  • First, deception should be used if there is no alternative to obtain accurate information.
  • Second, it must not harm subjects mentally or physically, and
  • Finally, once the truth has been revealed (this process is called interrogation, where the investigator reveals the true purpose of the investigation) and the participants claim withdrawal, the investigator must respect their decision.

Milgram study

When discussing the role of deception in psychology, Stanley Milgram’s classic obedience study confirms the use of deception in behavioral research, in the history of psychology. In the study, he asked research participants to shock someone else if they did not give the correct answer, and for each failed attempt, the voltage was increased. Although no impact was actually given to the people, this was the information received by the participants, but most of the participants obeyed the research commands.

The use of deception is quite explicit, since the participants were deceived from the reality of the research. However, despite the fact that this provided rich and accurate data sources, which were impressive and contributed greatly to behavioral psychology, there was a lot of criticism as it was deemed quite unethical. This is because, although there was no physical harm to the participants, it was a painful emotional experience.

Disadvantages of deceiving participants

Although deception has its advantages in enhancing the psychological research group and leads to accurate findings in which people genuinely react to the situation, it certainly has its drawbacks. First, before conducting an investigation, the informed consent of the participants must be taken. One of the main objections is that it violates the rights of the participant, since the participant would be consenting to a hoax and would be used for research where he or she is not aware of the true purpose. Another claim is that it questions the whole idea of ​​ethics. Finally, this contaminates the image of the general discipline, since the use of deception can be quite degrading when people formulate negative attitudes not only for that particular research and researcher,

In short, it is true that the use of deception is that psychology provides reliable and accurate data as people display genuine behavior. However, deception should only be used in mandatory situations, as it has a number of disadvantages for the researcher, participants, and the wider psychological research community. To reduce this ethical dilemma, participants should be informed as soon as possible of the true nature of the research and its objectives.

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