Texas Tech University

Deception & Incomplete Disclosure

Research studies occasionally involve the deception of participants. The participants are provided with false or incomplete information about the research in order to obtain unbiased data with respect to the participants' attitudes and behavior.

  • Deception occurs when a researcher intentionally gives research participants misleading or false information about some aspect of the research
  • Deliberately misinforming participants
  • Incomplete Disclosure occurs when a researcher intentionally withholds information from participants about the true purpose or nature of the research
  • Omitting or withholding key information about the research

Deception may only be used:

  • In Limited research if they participant is made aware in the informed consent process that the research involves deception.
  • In Expedited and Full Board research.
  • When the risk is no greater than minimal.
  • When the research is not feasible without the deception.
  • When debriefing is provided.

Deception affects the informed consent process because participants are not provided accurate information on the required elements of consent and therefore cannot make an informed decision to participate in the research. A request for a Waiver or Alteration of Informed Consent must be requested in the IRB application. Even though the IRB may agree to alter the required elements of consent, a consent process is still required, and the consent document must provide a truthful description of the study to the extent possible.

Information to include in the IRB:

  • Justification of deception
  • Process of debriefing
    • When, how, and by whom participants will be debriefed
    • Copy of debriefing statement
  • Explain any risks and benefits associated with the deception
  • Request a Waiver or Alteration of Informed Consent
    • When a study uses deception, fully informed consent cannot be obtained from participants because they are not provided with enough information to make an informed decision.