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To Deceive or Not to Deceive?

  • Author(s): Jamison, Julian
  • Karlan, Dean
  • Schechter, Laura
  • et al.
Abstract

Experimental economists believe (and enforce) that researchers should not employ deception in the design of experiments. The rule exists in order to protect a public good: the ability of other researchers to conduct experiments and have participants trust their instructions to be an accurate representation of the game being played. Yet other social sciences, particularly psychology, do not maintain such a rule. We examine whether such a public goods problem exists by purposefully deceiving some participants in one study, and then examining whether the deceived participants behave differently in a subsequent study. We find significant differences in both the selection of individuals who return to play after being deceived as well as (to a lesser extent) the behavior in the subsequent games, thus providing qualified support for the proscription of deception. We discuss policy implications for the maintenance of separate participant pools.

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