Justification of deception from the subject's point of view

The ethics of experimentation with human subjects is a topic of continuing controversy. Justification for possibly unethical procedure such as deception, is found by experimenters in subjects' reports that the experiment was a worthwhile experience and that they were glad to have participated. This thesis attempted to illustrate that the subject's report may be strongly influenced by factors other than the actual procedures used. It was hypothesized that the scientific importance of the study, the concern of the experimenter, and the amount of stress involved are three such factors. Tested in their classrooms, 240 male and female introductory psychology students at California State University, Northridge, received booklets containing descriptions of an experiment involving deception. This description also included a short narrative regarding the experimenter varying his prestige and goals of research. An indication of the extent of the debriefing was also present. A 3 x 2 x 4 design (debriefing x scientific importance x stress) was employed to test the hypotheses that subjects would report deceptive procedures as more justified when they perceived the stimulus experiment to be high in scientific importance and when they perceived the stimulus experimenter to be very concerned about his subjects. Additionally it was believed that these effects would occur only in stressful stimulus experiments. (See more in text.)