Deception in experiments: Towards guidelines on use in applied economics research

Matthew C. Rousu, Gregory Colson, Jay R. Corrigan, Carola Grebitus, Maria L. Loureiro

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

25 Scopus citations


Many applied economics journals ban the use of deception in experiments, which contrasts with the policies in other academic disciplines. We examine the cases for and against deception, and describe the ways deception can be employed in applied economics experiments. We create a general ranking of harms from deception in experiments and present evidence from a survey (conducted in summer 2014) of agricultural and applied economists eliciting attitudes towards ten different deceptive practices. Survey respondents view inflicting physical or psychological harm on participants and not making promised payments as the most severe forms of deception. Less severe forms of deception include providing participants with incomplete product information and conducting an experiment using participants who are not aware they are part of an experiment. Finally, we provide recommendations for policies addressing deception in experiments.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)524-536
Number of pages13
JournalApplied Economic Perspectives and Policy
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2015


  • Deception
  • Experimental economics

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Development
  • Economics and Econometrics


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