23 Mar 2015
Ethics has become a cornerstone for conducting effective and meaningful research. As such, the ethical behavior of individual researchers is under unprecedented scrutiny (Best & Kahn, 2006; Field & Behrman, 2004; Trimble & Fisher, 2006). In today's society, any concerns regarding ethical practices will negatively influence attitudes about science, and the abuses committed by a few are often the ones that receive widespread publicity (Mauthner, Birch, Jessop, & Miller, 2003).
Attention to the ethics of an investigation requires extra thought and effort, but the payoff for a study that is both methodologically intact and ethically sound is extremely exhilarating.
Despite a growing focus on the ethical issues inherent in the investigation of human participants, academic researchers in marketing have given relatively scant attention to the uses of ethically questionable research practices, such as deception, the invasion of privacy, and breaches of confidentiality.
Reference: Deception in Marketing Research:
Ethical issues arise at a variety of stages in business and management research that cannot be ignored, in that they relate directly to the integrity of a piece of research and of the disciplines that are involved.
Academy of Management (AoM), Code of Ethical Conduct:
aomrevisedcodeofethics.pdf (accessed 23 July 2010)
Association of Business Schools/British Academy of
Management/Higher Education Academy: Business Management
Accountancy and Finance, Ethics Guide (2009):
www.the-abs.org.uk /?id=560 (accessed 23 July 2010)
Market Research Society (MRS), Code of Conduct and
(accessed 23 July 2010)
(also includes specifi c MRS guidelines on qualitative
and quantitative research, doing Internet and employee
Social Research Association (SRA), Ethical Guidelines:
www.the-sra.org.uk/guidelines.htm (accessed 23 July
British Sociological Association (BSA), Statement of
Practice.htm (accessed 23 July 2010)
American Sociological Association (ASA), Code of Ethics:
23 July 2010)
Ethical issues are at the heart of a discipline such as social work. Social work is concerned with the care of people who have a variety of needs, with family relationships, with social responses to offending and with needs arising from structural causes (Smith, David Hugman, RichardÂ , 1995).
The goal of a research project is to facilitate learning through a better understanding of research and how it influences practice. However, in undertaking the research, it will frequently be required to seek information from individuals who are not normally part of the educational process (e.g., average consumers, managers, employees, etc.). It will need to ensure that no harm occurs to these voluntary participants and that all participants have made the decision to assist with full information as to what is required and what, if any, potential negative consequences may arise from such participation.
Those who choose not to participate must also be given the same information on which to make their decision not to be involved.
There are a diverse range of research methods and research contexts potentially available to you, and each carries its own specific ethical considerations, which makes it difficult to provide one global set of ethical issues.
There are six broad ethical areas that need to be considered in your research. In this research, we will discuss voluntary participation, informed consent, confidentiality and anonymity, the potential for harm, communicating the results, and more specific ethical issues. These six areas are interdependent, and, as such, the following discussions will overlap a bit.
Participation should be voluntary in all research and should not be in a position to force respondents to participate, but there are some situations in which could potentially occur. In this situation, respondents might not understand what they are being asked to do and, equally important, might not understand that the activity is voluntary (Davidson, 1995). The issue of voluntary consent can also arise when students undertake research of employees within an organization. This might occur if you were to arrange for a firm to allow you to research the organization's activities and/or employees.
In these situations, it should be made clear to participants that (a) the organization has allowed you to investigate the specified activities; (b) any involvement is voluntary; (c) there is no penalty for not participating; and (d) specific information from the research will or will not be given to their employer. Voluntary consent is concerned with each individual's ability to exercise the free power of choice without the intervention of force, fraud, deceit, duress, or other forms of constraint or coercion. This right to exercise choice must be present throughout the entire research process. The intent of this interpretation is that no such "constraint or coercion" must be either explicit or implicit on the part of the investigator.
The issue of informed consent is in many respects the area within business research ethics that is most hotly debated. The principle means that prospective research participants should be given as much information as might be needed to make an informed decision about whether or not they wish to participate in a study. Dalton went to great lengths in order to keep the purpose of his research from participants, presumably to maximize his chances of obtaining specific information about such things as unofficial use of resources or pilfering.
For example, Lawlor and Prothero (2007) conducted focus groups and individual interviews involving fifty-two children aged between 7 and 9 to explore their understanding of television advertisements. They carried out their data collection in two Irish primary schools during school hours. Consent to participate in the study was requested from the parents of the children, who expressed a preference that the interviews be conducted in the neutral setting of the school, rather than in the children's homes.
It is increasingly common for researchers to be advised by their universities, via their Research Ethics Committees, to gain written, rather than verbal, consent from research participants by asking them to fill out and sign a form, particularly if the research involves the collection of personal data. This is typically accompanied by an information sheet, which explains what the research is about and how the researchers plan to use the data. If data are collected using audio or video recording equipment, informed consent can also be formally recorded in this way, by asking the participant for their informed consent at the start of the process, rather than by completing a form. However, some researchers have expressed concerns about what they see as a 'tick-box approach' to informed consent, saying that it encourages ethical issues to be seen as a one-off consideration, rather than as something that needs to be considered throughout the research process (Sin 2005).
The most effective way to address the informed consent issue is through the use of an information sheet, which is provided to all those who are invited to participate. If possible, this should be on official university letterhead, as this not only has been shown to increas the response rate but also informs respondents that this is an official university activity. The information sheet should also discuss how respondents would be provided feedback, if at all. It should also include contact details of your supervisor(s). In some instances, it might need to include a complaints mechanism, although this will vary by institution and may or may not be required.
Consent involves the procedure by which an individual may choose whether or not to participate in a study. The researcher's task is to ensure that participants have a complete understanding of the purpose and methods to be used in the study, the risks involved, and the demands placed upon them as a participant (Best & Kahn, 2006; Jones & Kottler, 2006). The participant must also understand that he or she has the right to withdraw from the study at any time. The two forms of consent are direct and substitute. Direct consent is the most preferred because agreement is obtained directly from the person to be involved in the study. Substitute consent, or third-party consent, is given by someone other than the person to be involved in the study. Substitute consent may be obtained when it is determined that the person does not have the capacity to make the decision or is dependent on others for his or her welfare, such as children under the age of 18 or people with cognitive or emotional disabilities (Nagy, 2005a; Roberts, Geppert, Coverdale, Louie, & Edenharder, 2005). Both direct and substitute consent must meet the requirements for informed consent. All three elements must be present for consent to be effective (Drew & Hardman, 2007).
The method of obtaining consent will vary greatly depending on the situation involved and the degree of potential risk for participants. Consent may be obtained less formally (i.e., verbally) if the study creates little or no risk or potential invasion of privacy. In such circumstances, participants may be verbally informed of the nature of the investigation and give consent verbally. Consent should be obtained in writing in other situations when participants are placed in a more "risky" position (e.g., potential harm, stress, substantial invasion of privacy). This is typically accomplished by providing both written and verbal explanations of the study, and the subject indicates consent by signing the written form. A written explanation of the survey should be included with the questionnaire with a clear indication that responses to the questions are voluntary.
In all cases, the researcher must remain cognizant of the three elements of consent and also inform the subject that consent can be withdrawn at any time. It is also routine and required that research conducted through colleges or universities involve written consent.
Whenever interviewing, audio/videotaping, or conducting a focus group, we strongly suggest that you not only use an information sheet but have the respondent sign a consent form as well. You should keep the consent form as an indication of informed
consent by the respondent, should any question arise. However, you need to remember that a person who signs an informed consent form can still rescind their consent (i.e., it is not a binding document) for any reason, and you must not use the information they provided.
For the most part, the information contained in the consent form should be similar to the material in the information sheet, but there is more emphasis on what the respondent is agreeing to do and that they understand any potential negative consequences, as described in the information sheet. Some specific information that should be included relates to whether the participant agrees to be quoted in the final report and what happens to any tapes of the interview/ focus group that might exist.
Within the information sheet, you may have mentioned that you will keep respondents' answers confidential and/or anonymous. You need to understand the difference between these two issues, as they are often confused. Anonymity requires that you do not know who the participants are. Confidentiality means that you know who the participants are, but that their identity will not be revealed in any way in the resulting report. You must consider how to protect your participants, and if there is any possibility that they will not be protected, this must be clearly stated to potential respondents in the accompanying information letters and consentnforms. If individuals clearly know they will be identified and that the report will be distributed to managers or competitors, there is no ethical problem associated with responses not remaining confidential or anonymous.
Confidentiality and anonymity are potentially even more important when you are researching other staff within your own organization. As part of the process of negotiating access, it is becoming increasingly common for companies to ask their legal departments to prepare a Confidentiality agreement, which you may be asked to sign on your own behalf, or someone from your university may be asked to sign on behalf of the institution. The main purpose of this is to define what type of information you can have access to and to establish what information you are and are not able to disclose about the company. This usually involves agreeing that you will not pass on information to a third party, particularly that which pertains to commercially sensitive or valuable issues, such as new product development.
This legally binding agreement can thus grant a considerable amount of power to the company, and it has the potential to cause considerable difficulties if your research throws up issues that the company would rather were kept out of the public domain. If you are asked to sign a Confidentiality agreement, before signing it, take it to your supervisor to ask for advice and get it checked by someone who deals with legal issues on behalf of the university. The issues of confidentiality and anonymity raise particular difficulties for many forms of qualitative research, where particular care has to be taken with regard to the possible identification of persons, organizations, and places.
These guidelines are based on the assumption that research participants 'not only deserve the protection of anonymity, but that they actively desire it' (Grinyer 2002: 2). This, according to Grinyer, makes clear 'how problematic it is to make judgments on behalf of others, however well intentioned' (2002: 3). The issues of confidentiality and anonymity involve legal as well as ethical considerations. For example, in Cavendish's (1982) study of women factory workers on an assembly line, great care was taken by the researcher to invent names for all the women so that they could not be identifi ed, to protect them from possible victimization by the company. However, Cavendish deliberately left the name of the firm unchanged in order to preserve the realism of the study and to provide 'concrete facts about the factory' (1982: vi). In contrast, there are other instances where organizations do consent to be named in publications, for example in Pettigrew's (1985) study of changing culture at Imperial Chemical Industries.
As Alderson (1998) has suggested, the difficulty is one of being able to ensure that the same safeguards concerning confidentiality can be guaranteed when secondary analysts examine such records as those provided by the original primary researcher.
Research that is likely to harm participants is regarded by most people as unacceptable. Harm can entail a number of facets: physical harm; harm to participants' development or self-esteem; stress; harm to career prospects or future employment; and 'inducing subjects to perform reprehensible acts', as Diener and Crandall (1978: 19) put it. In Dalton's (1959) study, his 'counselling' relationship with the female secretary in exchange for access to valuable personnel files was potentially harmful to her, both in terms of the personal relationship and in jeopardizing the security of her employment. In Haney, Banks, and Zimbardo's (1973) prison experiments, several participants experienced severe emotional reactions, including mental breakdown. The AoM Code of Ethical Conduct states that it is the responsibility of the researcher to assess carefully the possibility of harm to research participants, and, to the extent that it can be, the possibility of harm should be minimized. Similar sentiments are expressed by the MRS's Code of Conduct, which advocates that 'the researcher must take all reasonable precautions to ensure that respondents are in no way directly harmed or adversely affected as a result of their participation in a marketing research project'.
In addition to the possibility of physical or emotional harm through exposure to a fieldwork setting, certain research methods, such as auto-ethnography is further addressed in ethical codes by advocating care over maintaining the confidentiality of records and anonymity of accounts. For example, the AoM Code of Ethical Conduct recommends that issues relating to confidentiality and anonymity should be negotiated and agreed with potential research participants, and, 'if confidentiality or anonymity is requested, this must be honored'. This injunction also means that care needs to be taken when findings are being published to ensure that individuals and organizations are not identified or identifiable, unless permission has been given for data to be passed on in a form that allows them to be identified. If a respondent's identity is to be revealed, '(a) the respondent must first have been told to whom the information would be supplied and the purposes for which it will be used, and also (b) the researcher must ensure that the information will not be used for any non-research purpose and that the recipient of the information has agreed to conform to the requirements of the Code'. In quantitative research, it is often easier to anonymize records and to report findings in a way that does not allow individuals to be identified. However, even in quantitative studies there are sometimes instances where it is virtually impossible to make a company anonymous. Issues of anonymity are particularly complex in relation to visual data.
There are a number of ways in which participants can be harmed: physical harm, psychological harm, emotional harm, embarrassment (i.e., social harm), and so on. It is important for you to identify any potential for harm and determine how this potential for harm could be overcome.
One possible way to address the harm in such a project would be to provide participants with information on counseling services or appropriate support bodies dealing with the issue. Such materials should be distributed to all respondents with
the information sheet, so that those who need assistance can seek it. In this way, you will have at least provided a mechanism to assist any harmed individuals and thus undertake a duty of care in regard to participants. For example, a study looking at staff drinking on the job could result in someone being fired if the study identified that they had a problem. As mentioned earlier, even showing participants advertisements used in the media may embarrass or offend some segments of the community. Thus, you must identify any potential harm to participants and seek to ensure that the potential is minimized within the study as well as that participants are clearly informed of the potential for harm.
Though not a mechanism for preventing harm, in cases involving interviews and/or focus groups, it may also be beneficial to have respondents sign consent forms in addition to receiving an information sheet. This makes it clear that individuals have agreed to participate; however, given that individuals should always be given the right to withdraw at any time, this may provide less protection than anticipated.
Psychologists must take reasonable steps to avoid harming their clients/ patients, students, supervisees, research participants, organizational clients, and others with whom they work, and to minimize harm where it is foreseeable and unavoidable. (American Psychological Association, 2002, p. 6).
When psychologists become aware that research procedures have harmed a participant, they take reasonable steps to minimize the harm. (American Psychological Association, 2002, p. 12). It should be made clear to informants and participants that despite every effort made to preserve it, confidentiality may be compromised. (American Educational Research Association, 2005). Certain types of investigations present potential harm to participants. Research that involves physically dangerous treatment may present real possibilities for harm if the treatment is "inflicted" on the participants. Unfortunately, there are examples of investigations in which ethical principles were violated in an extreme fashion (Young, 2005). Other areas of research are specifically designed to investigate the effects of psychological or emotional stress.
People who are institutionalized or incarcerated, such as prisoners, persons with severe disabilities, or people with serious mental illness, may agree to participate in a study either because they "should to show evidence of good behavior"or to gain approval from supervisors.Unfortunately, some troubling examples of ethical violations have occurred with studies involving these individuals (Field & Behrman, 2004; Moser et al., 2004).
Highly vulnerable populations should not be taken advantage of in the name of science. Researchers investigating topics involving these individuals must exercise extreme care. Very young children, the elderly, or people with disabilities may be easily convinced that most activities are important, are of little harm, and should be engaged in for the benefit of society (Drew & Hardman, 2007; Quadagno, 2005).
The researcher must determine what constitutes significant risk, and carefully weigh potential benefits versus potential harm to the subjects. Researchers must decide how much threat, stress, or pain should be considered harmful. Their determination might fall near one end or the other of the continuum. Neither of these extremes can be accepted as a blanket rule. The continuum must be explored more completely and
judicious caution exercised.
Some researchers may attempt to fall back on consent as a means of dealing with issues related to harm. They may argue that potentially harmful studies can only be undertaken if the participants have effectively consented. However, since consent is an essential prerequisite to these investigations, it adds little to our understanding of how much harm is acceptable. Consent, even under the most careful precautions, does not render an investigator free to ignore further responsibility regarding potential harm.
Another approach to addressing the issue of harm is the cost/benefit ratio. This approach involves a comparison of the potential benefits of a given study with the potential risks to the participants. Presumably, if the benefit of the study outweighs the potential harm, the study is considered ethical, and the opposite would also be true. As much as possible, research should be planned and executed in a manner that minimizes harm to participants. A study is always more ethically justifiable when the probability of risk is minimized. In addition, the researcher must be concerned about how long the harmful effects will last after the study is completed, and if they are reversible. It is most desirable to deal with an effect that can be easily reversed and has a short post-investigation duration. A potential harmful effect should be detected early so that the study can be terminated if necessary.
The value attached to individual privacy has varied throughout history, and vast differences are still evident from one country to another. Privacy has, however, become a "right" that is highly treasured in contemporary Western society.
Science is based on the collection and analysis of data. Educators as well as
behavioral and social scientists collect and analyze data concerning people, both as individuals and groups. This is the point at which the goals of research and the right to privacy may come into conflict. Frequently, research of this nature is aimed at obtaining information concerning attitudes, beliefs, opinions, and behavior. Thus, pursuing the goals of science, while guarding against unnecessary invasion of participants' privacy, presents complex issues.
As with other ethical considerations, privacy has become an increasingly valued right. Seeking privacy is an act of seclusion or confidentiality-removed from public view or knowledge.
In considering privacy related to the conduct of research, several factors must be addressed. First, the sensitivity of the data in the view of the individual or
group being studied must be considered. For example, certain types of information may be viewed as sensitive under any circumstances. For example, data concerning sexual preference represents information that many people would want to keep private.
Other information may be less sensitive, such as one's favorite color. In addition, many types of information would be considered situationally sensitive, information that would be divulged under certain circumstances but not others (e.g., age, weight, or personal income).
The setting in which research is being conducted may also be an important
factor in considering a potential invasion of privacy.
Clearly, the researcher must consider the setting in which the data are collected if undue invasion of privacy is to be avoided.
A final point regarding privacy involves how public the information is.
Subjects may not believe that their privacy has been seriously threatened if only one or two people know (e.g., the researchers collecting the data). It is a totally different story, however, if the investigators publish personal information and opinions in the newspaper.
The researcher must remain very alert concerning the degree to which private information remains confidential, particularly when such information is of
a sensitive nature.
A researcher cannot ignore privacy in any study. In addition, the participants should be assured that the data will be held in strict confidence to protect anonymity. If a potential of privacy risk exists, the investigator should take every precaution.
Invasion of privacy represents a substantial risk in qualitative research because of the sensitive data often collected and analyzed (Baez, 2002; Nagy, 2005b). One of the traditional methods of circumventing privacy problems-anonymity-is a way to protect individual participants. In reporting the results of observation studies, fictitious names are often used to disguise the identity of individuals, groups, agencies, and locations. Although this technique is adequate in most circumstances, it sometimes fails. Some of the published information may involve behavior that could be considered embarrassing and potentially damaging to the participants, and the people involved may know each other well enough to establish who was being discussed.
Finally, anonymity does not solve privacy questions related to sacred data in cultural studies.
The objectives of any study do not give researchers a special right to intrude on a respondent's privacy nor to abandon normal respect for an individual's values.
Privacy is very much linked to the notion of informed consent, because, to the degree that informed consent is given on the basis of a detailed understanding of what the research participant's involvement is likely to entail,
he or she in a sense acknowledges that the right to privacy has been surrendered for that limited domain.
Personal information concerning research participants should be kept confidential. In some cases it may be necessary to decide whether it is proper or appropriate to record certain kinds of sensitive information.' Invasion of
privacy can also be a particular issue when dealing with
certain kinds of data, such as photographs.
Raising issues about ensuring anonymity and confidentiality in relation to the recording of information and the maintenance of records relates to all methods of business research.
As S. Warren (2002: 240) notes, 'the very act of holding a camera up to one's eye and pointing it at someone is an obvious and potentially intrusive activity which cannot be "disguised" in the same way as making fi eld-notes in a journal or even tape-recording an interview'. Ethical issues of anonymity and confi dentiality are thus potentially more problematic because of the instant recognizability of photographic images. Legal issues can also be more complex, especially those pertaining to copyright ownership (Pink 2001).
Deception occurs when researchers represent their research as something other than what it is. Research deception involves an intentional misrepresentation of facts related to the purpose, nature, or consequences of an investigation. In this context, deception refers to either an omission or a commission on the part of the researcher in terms of interactions with participants. An omission deception could mean that the investigator does not fully inform participants about important aspects of the study. Part or all of the information is withheld. A commission involves a situation in which the researcher gives false information about the investigation, either partially or totally.
In the first case, participants may not even be aware that a study is in progress, or they may only be informed about a portion of the investigation. In the second situation, participants generally are aware that they are involved in some type of study or activity that is out of the ordinary, but may be given misleading information regarding the actual purpose of the study or activity. In either case, the researcher is misrepresenting the study.
Regardless of the precise nature of deception, it has become a very prominent issue for investigators concerned with the ethics of conducting research. As we move through the first decade of the 21st century, deception is receiving widespread attention in educational and social science research with increasing concerns regarding its use on the Internet (Keller & Lee, 2003; Lichtenberg, Heresco-Levy, & Nitzan, 2004; Mishara & Weisstub, 2005; Nagy, 2005c; Pittenger, 2003).
Deception may be considered necessary in some behavioral research because if researchers were to reveal the exact substance of the study, they would run the risk of distorting participants' reactions and ultimately limiting the applicability of their research findings. Deceptive procedures
allow researchers to manipulate and control the variables of interest with much greater facility by contriving the precise conditions under which their participants respond.
Marketing researchers are not immune from such methodological considerations and often find it necessary to deceive research participants about various aspects of their investigations, including the study's purpose, research materials, interview length, and the like. The consequences of such deceptive research practices are of growing concern in light of evidence indicating that marketing researchers frequently deceive their research participants and that the employment of these practices actually has risen over recent decades (Kimmel, in press; Misra, 1992; Toy, Olson, & Wright, 1989). By contrast, recent trends in social psychological research are marked by a decline in both laboratory experimentation and the use of active deception procedures (Kimmel, in press; Nicks et al., 1997; Vitelli, 1988).
The systematic evaluation of deceptive research procedures is essential to a
discipline characterized by the increasing use of these practices.
There are a variety of reasons that deception may be used in research. These include deceiving participants who have become "test-wise" and are suspicious that the purpose of the study is hidden, reducing the amount of influence a group can have on an individual respondent, and pragmatics (limited finances, time, and data sources).
Hidden agenda. Some research participants have become "test-wise" and often believe the "real" purpose of a given study is hidden. This is truer for certain populations than others (notably college sophomores, one of the most "studied" groups in the United States). If participants are that suspicious, they may be expected to answer, perform, or generally respond in an atypical manner. Such responses may seriously threaten the soundness of an investigation. Participants may attempt to respond in a manner that they think the researcher desires, or they may try to outguess the researcher and "sabotage" the study. Some populations are studied frequently, and others are even professional research participants. (Some college
students earn part of their monthly income by serving as participants in studies about response to advertisements.) There is even evidence that participants are "wising up" to the research process.
The APA Code of Ethics notes that "Psychologists do not conduct a study involving deception unless they have determined that the use of deceptive techniques is justified by the study's significant prospective scientific, educational, or applied value and that effective non-deceptive alternative procedures are not feasible" (American Psychological Association, 2002, p. 11). APA continues by noting that
deception is not used if it can be expected to cause physical or emotional suffering, and, if used, the deception must be explained to participants as early as feasible.
Individual influences. Suppose a study were being conducted on group control of individual actions. In this type of investigation, the study might focus on the
amount of influence a group had on individual opinions about the use of drugs.
This might be the type of study that would involve intentional deception to a considerable degree. If the participant being observed was suspicious about the purpose of the investigation, he or she might be more or less resistant to group pressure than normally would occur. The researcher would need to account for such an influence by deceiving the participant. The individual may be directly deceived about the purpose of the study, or information may be withheld. If the participant were openly informed about the nature of the study, the outcome would be jeopardized. In this case, the use of intentional deception could backfire. The researcher cannot reveal the exact nature of the investigation, but the participant may be generally suspicious and alter behavior because of those suspicions in a manner unknown to the investigator.
Intentional deception is used to control factors important to the study, but
suspicion of deception creates problems for control.
The control exerted may relate to the technical soundness of the study or it may relate to the generalizability of the findings (matters that will be examined in detail in later chapters). If one group of participants receives different treatment (deception) than another, the comparison may not really involve the treatment. Likewise, if deception is either real or perceived by participants, results might not be transferable to the outside world.
Some reasons for using deception are purely pragmatic. Limited
finances, time, and data sources have often led researchers to use deception. For example, if it is too expensive, time consuming, or not feasible to observe a natural occurrence of a particular phenomenon, it might be best studied by creating a simulated incident. Such a situation may arise when the researcher is studying something that only occurs rarely or creates dangerous circumstances when it does occur (e.g., emergencies).
Deception in various degrees is probably quite widespread in much research, because researchers often want to limit participants' understanding of what the research is about so that they respond more naturally to the experimental
treatment. For example, in the section on informed consent it was mentioned that the MSR Code of Conduct states that respondents should be told
at the beginning of an interview if observation techniques or recording equipment are to be used. They should then be given the opportunity to see or hear the relevant section of the record, and, if they so wish, 'the record or relevant section of it must be destroyed or deleted'.
Prior to an ethical evaluation of deception and the formulation of a research agenda for assessing its implications for marketing research, it is first useful to examine evidence as to the extent to which deceptive procedures are used in the discipline and to consider their potential short- and long-term effects.
While some observers (e.g., Akaah & Riordan, 1990; Laroche, McGown, &
Rainville, 1986) have reported that marketing research practitioners admitted to utilizing deception in their research, including such practices as concealment of the study purpose and deception of study sponsor or study length, there are few indications as to its actual frequency or kind. This is particularly true of academic marketing research. In one limited examination of the research literature, Toy et al. (1989) found that more than 350 experimental studies published in three key marketing journals (Journal of Marketing, Journal of Marketing Research, Journal of Consumer Research) from 1976 through 1986 involved some form of deception. In a more recent analysis, Kimmel (in press) surveyed the methodological and ethical practices reported in empirical studies appearing in the Journal of Marketing Research and the Journal of Consumer Research across three time periods, 1975-76, 1989-90, and 1996-97. The results revealed an increase in deceptive procedures over time reported in human participant studies, from 43% in 1975-76 to 56% in 1996-97, largely due to an overall rise in the use of active deception procedures (4.8% to 16%). The most common forms of active deception consisted of misrepresentation of the research purpose and incorrect information about research procedures, equipment, and measuring instruments. For example, in one study of advertising recall, participants were falsely informed that the intent of the research was to pretest advertisements that were to be used in another investigation. The percentage of studies employing passive deceptions (i.e., deceptions involving the omission or withholding of information regarding some critical aspect of the study) actually declined across time (from 32.5% in 1975-76 to 26.7% in 1996-97), suggesting that marketing researchers have progressively come to rely more on active procedures than passive procedures in order to mislead research participants.
In contrast to the trends noted in marketing research, the JPSP findings revealed an overall drop in the frequency of active deception over the same time period, consistent with other recent analyses (Nicks et al., 1997; Vitelli, 1988).
Nonetheless, analyses of the marketing and psychology research literature consistently reveal very little reporting on a number of matters relating to deception and ethics, such as the use of debriefing, the protection of respondent anonymity, and the provision that participants are free to withdraw from the research. This tendency may convey the message to researchers that ethical practices are relatively unimportant.
Marketing researchers are less apt than psychologists to use deceptions that are relevant to the fundamental beliefs and values of research participants, but rather deceptions that pertain to peripheral factors such as the research sponsor or study purpose (Toy et al., 1989; Misra, 1992). Additionally, there is evidence that marketing researchers employ deceptive practices with less frequency overall than do psychologists (Kimmel, 1999). Thus, while one can draw from the psychological literature as a means of identifying useful research directions and potential effects of research practices, one must be cautious in generalizing the reported findings without conducting the necessary studies in the context of marketing research.
When considering the potential effects of deception in marketing research it is
important to recognize that they may be positive (i.e., beneficial to recipients) or negative (i.e., harmful to recipients); moreover, the effects may be short- or long-term and immediate or delayed. Another consideration with regard to the potential effects of deception is that research deception can have direct or indirect consequences on a wide range of targets, including research participants who are deceived (or expect to be deceived), researchers, the marketing profession or the research enterprise in general, and society at large. Additionally, there are potential costs to all parties involved that stem from the decision not to employ deception for research purposes,
including the greater difficulty in determining the validity of a theory or possible loss of knowledge that results (Haywood, 1976; Rosenthal & Rosnow, 1984).
Nonetheless, critics of this approach maintain that participants' rights to autonomy, dignity, and privacy are necessarily violated by deceptive research practices and that these rights should take precedence, regardless of any anticipated benefits (Baumrind, 1975; 1985).
Deception has been criticized focuses on broader disciplinary concerns; specifically, that deceptive techniques reduce the public's trust in social scientists and give the research professions a poor reputation. In this view, it is not only the case that research participants are likely to perceive researchers as less trustworthy following deception research, but that this lack of trust accrues to the profession and to the larger society as well. In light of research showing that consumers evaluate some deceptive practices (such as misrepresentation of interview length or study purpose) as inappropriate, it is feared that they not only will be less likely to participate in future research, but that their research experience will negatively influence their image of the study sponsor, at least in commercial market research contexts (Tessar, 1994). At the same time, the public's confidence in the scientific enterprise and in the credibility of those who engage in it is likely to be weakened, thereby jeopardizing community support for the research enterprise and public trust in expert authorities.
2.6.3 The Ethics of Deception in Research
Professional codes of ethics in the field of marketing and related disciplines typically place the onus of ethical decision making in the research context directly on the investigator(s) responsible for carrying out a study. Thus, whether a researcher is contemplating the use of active or passive deception, it is essential that he or she first establish that the deception is morally justifiable. According to Bok (1992), determining whether deception is justifiable is a question of "crucial importance."
Hunt and Vitell's (1986) "general theory of marketing ethics" is an attempt to explain The decision-making process for situations involving an ethical problem. In their view, nearly all normative ethical theories can be classified as either deontological or teleological in nature. Whereas deontological theories focus on the inherent rightness of a behavior, teleological theories emphasize the amount of goodness or badness inherent in the consequences of actions.
There are three broad issues that researcher needs to be aware of when completing his research project report and communicating results with his lecturer/ professor/supervisor and with clients, should they exist: plagiarism, academic fraud, and misrepresenting results.
The first issue of plagiarism relates to all student work; that is, you need
to be very careful that you do not misrepresent someone else's work as your
own. This is unfortunately getting easier with the use of electronic databases and information on the Web. In most universities, plagiarism is a breach of the student code of conduct and can result in failure of the subject/class or even expulsion from the institution. Therefore, you need to be very careful when using material from others to ensure that it is adequately referenced.
Once students begin undertaking research involving the collection, analysis,
and interpretation of data, there is also the possibility of what is known as academic fraud, which in most cases is perceived by universities as bad if
not worse than plagiarism. Academic fraud involves the intentional misrepresentation of what has been done. This would include making up data
and/or results from the data or purposefully putting forward conclusions
that are not accurate. Students may be inclined to commit academic fraud
for a number of reasons. For example, they may have difficulty accessing the
correct people to survey and so make up data. In other cases, students may
find that their results are inconclusive and think that they need to find something in order to receive a good grade. For example, one group of students wanted to undertake a random telephone survey of 18- to 25-year-old males by randomly calling people until they obtained 100 responses. After they called 100 people, they found that they received only one response. On looking at the census data, they found that this group (18- to 25-year-old males) represented only 5% of the population; thus if they were lucky, they would only have had five respondents from their 100 calls. The group decided that they would rather survey male students in the university cafeteria in this age category. As this example shows, a data collection problem forced the students to modify the design and refocus the question, which in this case was fine and still satisfied the assignment requirements.
The last issue, misrepresenting the results, is especially important for
students undertaking their project for a client. In many situations, you will
be so good at marketing your work that businesses may forget that these are
student projects, which frequently have substantial limitations. In the second
place, students are just that, students. You are learning about the application
of research to solve business problems and, as such, may make conclusions
and recommendations that are inconstant or incorrect based on what you
found. On occasion, some students (not you, of course) may purposefully
misrepresent their work to impress their business client. Academic supervisors, on the other hand, will frequently identify these exaggerations and mark the work down accordingly.
The problem of overclaiming is often difficult to overcome without the
assistance of your lecturer/professor/supervisor, who, as an objective expert,
will be able to determine if there are any substantial errors or omissions. If
you do have a client, you should make sure that any report to clients clearly
specifies what was done and what limitations exist. In addition, we recommend
that your instructor provide some objective feedback that is passed on
to the client with any final report.
As has been discussed in this chapter, there are various potential ethical issues that you should carefully consider when planning your research.
of these guidelines is to ensure that potential respondents have full information before voluntarily participating in your research. In addition, you
need to put yourself in the participant's position and determine if there is any
reasonable possibility of harm arising. It is your responsibility to eliminate, or
at least minimize, this possibility. Addressing the potential for harm might
require a modification of the research design or of the specific questions
asked. For this reason, it is important that this issue be considered when
designing the study rather than once the project has substantially progressed.
Deception has emerged as a reality of contemporary marketing research in recent years and its use is no longer the exception to the rule. While there are often clear benefits
for the researcher in the employment of deception, it remains a morally problematic
research procedure. Our ethical analysis suggests that the use of deceptive practices is not
necessarily precluded; nonetheless, deception should be minimized in the research context
and subject to certain constraints and conditions. A decision to carry out a deceptive
investigation requires a considered judgment formulated on the basis of ethical,
methodological, and disciplinary considerations. Further research is necessary relative to
these three dimensions before we can expect researchers at the individual and (review)
committee levels to apply deception in a consistent, reasoned, and morally justifiable
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