Deception for Good – Tom

I was discussing my procedure with my mentor last week when an interesting detail came up. The importance of making sure that the participants in the study do not think it is about race. This is important for an obvious reason, if people think that I am going to be observing how they interact with race, they will be paying more attention to how race is affecting them. But this is a study about the implicit effects of race, and so calling attention to it would completely ruin all of my data. Sadly, I must say, that means all of you aren’t going to be able to be participants.

Now one part of this is that I need to deemphasize the role of the photos within the study. If people know they are in a study, they will most likely be looking out for clues to what is being studied. And the photographs are a giant clue that will be right in front of them saying look here, it has to do with this person’s appearance. The simplest way I found to minimize the photograph was to remove it from the explanation altogether. Instead, it now is just part of the medium that contains the other player’s bid.

However, just deemphasizing it alone would not be enough, since that would still be the only thing for the participants to latch on to. The solution to this ended up being just to tell the them what the focus of the study is. Now, of course, I am not going to tell the participants the real purpose, since that would ruin the entire study. Instead, I am going to need to lie. Now the lie needs to be believable but completely detached from the truth so that it doesn’t affect the results. If it isn’t believable and they realize I lied, then they will look even harder to discover the purpose of the study.

The one drawback of this is that I am going to lose the illusion that this is simply a game. But that illusion, by itself, was already going to be difficult to maintain. Especially given that the presentation of each offer is on a photo, and not coming from a live person they can interact with. Even more so is how odd it would be that someone just felt like conducting a strange game with random people. This decision should help get me the best data possible.

Thanks for reading.


For those who want to read some of the studies I have been using:

Image source:


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