No one outside of the experiment—and ideally in the experiment too—should be able to identify the participants from the results.
For any research to be ethical, the researcher must have gained informed consent from the participants.
The research involved recruiting community samples of participants who completed questionnaires and pen and paper based tasks and also the use of covert observational measures to assess health-related behaviours (eg the number of health promotion leaflets taken from a stand in a waiting room; whether the participant took the lift or the stairs to a subsequent appointment).
In some instances, what participants were told about the purpose of the study or procedures differed from the true purpose (eg participants were told we were carrying out two separate studies on ‘modern living’ and taste perception, when we were actually looking at health related behaviours).
Dr Katy Tapper The project explored the potential utility of a new intervention approach designed to target motivation for health behaviour change.
Research shows that although people may believe certain values to be important (eg equality and helpfulness), they are often unable to articulate why.
We solicited questions and comments from the participants, asking whether they minded that we hadn’t provided this information at the start of the study, while indicating that we would be happy to withdraw their data if they preferred.
No participant requested that their data be withdrawn.
The deception employed in the studies was considered necessary since describing the true purpose of the research/procedures would prime participants to think about health and/or invalidate the measures.
To minimise the potential risk of harm, we used an interactive verbal debrief in which we explained the deception and the reasoning behind it.