The Common Misconception Of Deception University Essay Example

“The repeated assumption of the unacceptability of deception seems to be due to the fact that deception has been evaluated only from the viewpoint of moral philosophizing.” According to Dr. Larry Christensen, a scholar in psychology this has led to the repeated conclusion that deception is reprehensible and seems to have created a perceptual set to view deception immediately as aversive. Over the past hundreds of years, psychology has conducted multiple experiments adding to the knowledge of science today. In 1932, a Public Health Service group in Tuskegee was experimenting with a study in order to document syphilis in African Americans in hopes of possible treatments (“Tuskegee Study – Timeline – CDC – NCHHSTP”).

In addition, in 1963, Stanley Milgram a psychologist at Yale University, conducted an experiment to test obedience. Stanley Milgram wished to observe whether people were notably obedient to authority figures (McLeod, Saul). Moreover, in 1973 Phillip Zimbardo’s Stanford prison experiment placed normal people in roles of “guards” and “inmates” in order to test the brutality of the guards depending on their personality or environment (McLeod, Saul). These three experimental studies have impacted the way psychologists use deception in present studies. Nevertheless, these studies seem like ordinary research studies simply for the purpose of science, yet deception was used in these experiments. Put in common terms, deception is the act of making someone believe false information in order to deceive them. In the research studies mentioned, deception was used in a harmful manner which affected the participants. For example, in the Tuskegee study African American men were unknowingly getting injected with the syphilis virus. In the Stanley Milgram experiment, deception was used to make the test subjects believe they were harming another person by giving them high dosages of electric shocks if they got an answer wrong when asked a question.

Lastly, in the Stanford Prison study participants were placed into either the “inmates” or the “guards’ condition in order to test the effects of authority and power. This experiment got to the point where the “guards” were actually treating the “inmates” with malicious intent. Situations like these beg the question, is deception unethical or is it acceptable when necessary to achieve the results intended? Majority of the time deception can be used for all the wrong reasons; however, in psychology it may be essential for the right reasons. Over the years, the word deception has brought upon bad prominence to any profession; however, “deception” may not always be what it seems such as in the field of psychology where deception may not be unethical to a certain extent.

Psychology is the field of study where the mind is explored for the wonders it has to offer. In order to get into the deep wonders of the mind one must study it without a third factor. Typically, in psychology, the mind, behaviors, emotions, and much more is studied. However, there could be multiple factors that can play a part in the study that can alter the results intended. This is where deception comes into play. Deception may seem like it’s all bad considering the past experiments that used deception, but without it valuable research may not exist. The article “Research involving Deception” by Oregon State University expresses that in certain circumstances a study may require deception to achieve vital results. Deception is necessary to get what is desired without the useless parts. For instance, in the Stanford Prison experiment, without deception psychologists would have never seen true human behavior assigned a specific role. Thus, furthering scientific knowledge for future purposes.

Furthermore, in “Exploring the Ethics and Psychological Impact of Deception in Psychological Research” Marcella H. Boynton, et al. expand on the idea of ethical violation by deception. Supporting Oregon State research, Boynton et al. state that often deception can even be beneficial to the participants themselves. It benefits them because they can learn a feature they never knew. However, the deception must be minimal to the participant if not, this begs the question of how far is too far when it comes to deception? If deception is taken to the extent where it is potentially harmful, can a debriefing help the situation? A debriefing is a document which explains the study and its purpose. The debriefing is typically presented after the study is completed. In addition, to help support Boynton et al’s statement, they conduct a study to see if the right use of deception actually harms the participants and if it is considered unethical. During the study participants knew that the study was going to use deception, but the participants still agreed to participate. After the study, Boynton and colleagues found that there was little to no harm if the right use of deception was involved.

To clarify, the deception must not harm the participants emotionally, physically, mentally and behavior wise. Marcella H. Boynton also found that if a debriefing was included in the study then it can help to make it less unethical and more up to standards. This adds to Oregon State University’s research which demonstrates it is appropriate to provide a simple debriefing to the participant to minimize risks. Overall, this brings up more thoughts to think about when it comes to deception. Deception does not seem so bad when considering its contributions to science and the populations of interest. Therefore, deception cannot be completely classified as a bad act but can be used as a potential tool to achieve new results.

Building off from the previous paragraph, the word deception is initially perceived as bad however, the two articles presented tell otherwise. They both demonstrate that there is more to deception than originally understood. Nonetheless, supporting the articles in the idea that there’s not a single definition for deception but multiple. In the article “Judgements of Acceptability of Deception in Psychological Research,” James H. Korn, a Professor in Psychology also builds on the ideas presented in the previous two articles about how deception in research is not all that it plays out to be. In Boynton et. al’s article, she comments that participants actually engage in deception. Nonetheless, James H. Korn expands on Boynton’s idea of the participants knowledge of deception in the experiment. If this is the case, then are certain experiments really unethical? Thus, James H. Korn’s experiment wanted to understand why people engage in deceptive research.

More specifically, how people feel about deception because people will define deception depending on the results they are given from the study. James H. Korn’s results from the study found that some people believe that deception is wrong, some believe it is adequate and some are unsure of their feelings towards deception based off of the results they were given after the study. What does all this mean in terms of deception? First and foremost, this strongly alternates the definition of deception and second, it contradicts the idea that all deception is unethical and just plain wrong. The article, “Reading the Ethics more deeply” by Dr. Stephen Behnke expresses that usually psychologists will not conduct a study if deception will cause harm in any way. Dr. Behnke also mentions that if the participants wish to withdraw from the experiment then they may do so at any time.

For instance, in the Stanley Milgram experiment the participants could have withdrawn from the experiment at any time they wanted to. For that reason, if deception did have one definition then all the participants would have agreed that deception was wrong from the start and could have withdrawn. However, each individual got different results which altered their feelings about how they feel. Likewise, if the participants had mixed and adequate feelings about the use of deception than technically it is not really an ethic’s violation of their human rights. Therefore, the word deception cannot be narrowed down to one definition nor can it be characterized as unethical if withdrawal was option.

Frankly, deception cannot be narrowed down to the common definition, unless deception is used in an extremely harmful way. The question of ethical violation does tend to come up. To further analyze the idea of ethical violation of deception, the article, “Informational and Relational Meanings of Deception: Implications for Deception Methods in Research,” by Eleanor Lawson a Professor from Charles Sturt University argues the meaning of deception. To demonstrate this argument, Eleanor Lawson uses informational and relational deception. Informational deception is where all information is kept away from the participant. In relational deception, it’s more of a trust between people. In the article, Eleanor Lawson uses an example of a surprise birthday party. At first, a surprise birthday party is considered informational deception because information is kept. On the other hand, if the person who threw the surprise party is relatively close to the person whom the party was intended for then its relational deception because it’s not considered deception due to the people knowing each other.

Moreover, Eleanor Lawson finds that relational deception is a disadvantage to ethics because it allows it to be volatile. For instance, if there is that bond or trust between the participant and researcher then there’s a chance of a confounding variable that leads to undesirable results. In addition, Eleanor Lawson points out that it all comes down to how people want to analyze the use of deception. This strengthens James H. Korn idea that people have different feelings on how they feel about deception. Moreover, this article also supports that there are different types of deception, specifically the minimal to extreme deception. In article one, a debriefing document was recommending afterwards when a study was complete, this was to minimize the ethical violations. Hence, why deception cannot be one definition and why to some people it is not unethical.

Given these points, in the final article, “The Rise and Fall of Deception in Social Psychology and Personality Research, 1921 to 1994,” by Sandra D. Nicks, et al, a Psychology Professor from Christian Brothers University, analyzes the past and the present studies of deception. This article consolidates all evidence from the prior three articles to heighten the overall point of deception not always being what it turns out to be. Sandra D. Nicks goes back as far as 1921 in Social Psychology to investigate deception used before compared to more modern times. Sandra Nicks finds that deception is different now in comparison to past studies. This article begs the question if participants are more willing to be in a study with the use of deception, thus, they are not really considering it deception. Moreover, this article supports that there might be trust between the researcher and the participant. Furthermore, Sandra Nicks also finds it hard to narrow deception down into one definition.

With this in mind, in “Deception in Research Guidance” by Health Sciences Institutional Review Boards adds to Sandra Nicks conflict of narrowing deception down to one definition. In the article, it mentions all the different types of deception, for example, active deception, passive deception, disclosed concealment, and incomplete disclosure. To support this, Sandra Nicks mentions the guidelines that must be followed when deception is involved in order for it to be considered ethical. For example, if a study was conducted and deception was needed to achieve certain results than in order for deception to be used the guidelines must be followed. However, the study can be trying to pinpoint a health issue of a person to help the individual themselves. This type of deception cannot be labeled as bad if they are helping the participant. Overall, all of the articles supported that deception is not what seems. For that reason, deception cannot be defined as bad when they are guidelines to follow.

All in all, when people hear deception in psychology, immediately people jump to conclusions about past deception and the common word of deception, as well they think about how unethical it is to even use deception. However, deception can have multiple meanings, it can be for the good of the people and to expand research in psychology. All the articles presented argued that the common definition of deception as well it showed that people actually know about the deception beforehand. In that case, it cannot be unethical if they participants know about the deception. Overall, when it comes to psychology, deception must be handled with caution as one can see it as bad, however, with the right tools and correct procedures, deception cannot be as bad as people think.

Works Cited

  1. Boynton, Marcella H., et al. “Exploring the Ethics and Psychological Impact of Deception in Psychological Research.” IRB: Ethics & Human Research, vol. 35, no. 2, Mar. 2013, pp. 7–13. EBSCOhost,
  2. “Deception.” Merriam-Webster, Merriam-Webster,
  3. Dr. Stephen Behnke. “Reading the Ethics Code More Deeply.” American Psychological Association, American Psychological Association, 2009,
  4. “Health Sciences IRBs KnowledgeBase.” Basic Computer Hardware Guide, University of Wisconsin Knowledge Base,
  5. Korn, James H. “Judgments of Acceptability of Deception in Psychological Research.” Journal of General Psychology, vol. 114, no. 3, July 1987, p. 205. EBSCOhost,
  6. Larry Christensen. “Deception in Psychological Research.” Journal of Research in Crime and Delinquency, SAGE Journals,
  7. Lawson, Eleanor. “Informational and Relational Meanings of Deception: Implications for Deception Methods in Research.” Ethics & Behavior, vol. 11, no. 2, Apr. 2001, pp. 115–130. EBSCOhost,
  8. McLeod, Saul. “Stanford Prison Experiment | Simply Psychology.” Simply Psychology, Simply Psychology, 1 Jan. 1970,
  9. Mcleod, Saul. “The Milgram Experiment.” Simply Psychology, Simply Psychology, 5 Feb. 2017,
  10. Nicks, Sandra D., et al. “The Rise and Fall of Deception in Social Psychology and Personality Research, 1921 to 1994.” Ethics & Behavior, vol. 7, no. 1, Mar. 1997, p. 69. EBSCOhost,
  11. “Research Involving Deception.” Research Office, Oregon State University, 6 July 2017,
  12. “Tuskegee Study – Timeline – CDC – NCHHSTP.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 22 Dec. 2015,

Biopower And Biopolitics

To be completely honest, I had never heard of the terms biopower or biopolitics in my life, until reading Michael Foucault and your class. It is something that grabbed my attention specifically, and as I get older it gets easier to recognize how and why the government tries to control us. The cool thing about sociology is that it changes the way you think about everything, so before I probably wouldn’t of been able to comprehend some of the points Foucault raises. This paper is mainly going to reflect what I have learned about biopower, and asks questions in some places I am confused about.

Correct me if I am wrong, but “biopower” is basically just power over life? So would that make biopolitics state control over the functions of life? For Foucault, it is specifically the power of a biopolitics to control the life of a specific population, and that we know holds true. I was trying to come up with an example of biopolitics and what came to mind was the everlasting battle in the U.S. over women’s reproductive rights (abortion, birth control), while the control over women’s bodies is biopower. When it comes down to it, for me that just seems a bit crazy. This brings me back to when I said I would never have thought like this when I was younger. You grow up hearing about abortion, thinking you know what the government is trying to do, yet you come to learn that they ultimately have the control over what they can and cant do with their bodies, and that needs to change.

Another interesting thing I picked up from Foucault was that when death, starvation, and plague were declining, the governments had to find another way to control us, producing “docile bodies” as Foucault puts it. The new wave of technology from what I’ve learned could be another way for the state to control us, which is then where biopower and biopolitics come into effect. Foucault even said it has been around after the medieval period and on, and that’s correct. We talked in class a little the use of people of color as subjects in medical experimentation, and that is what came to my mind when thinking about this. I believe it was the Tuskegee Syphilis experiment where they gave some black subjects the disease, and some not, and they did not tell those who were on it if they were or if they were not. In reality, that is so messed up, and would not be justified in today’s society.

This was really me spilling out what I have picked up from Foucault and some of our classes specific to the subject matter. I believe that if everyone in the world were forced to attend a sociology class, their eyes would all be opened. I would be any amount of money on that. Foucault is someone who I can see myself reading again, and more about. He was easy to read, and brought ideas into my head that I don’t know if I’d ever think about otherwise. I feel the same about all of my sociology courses as well. Definitely excited to see what the future of this class will bring.

Bite The Bullet And Be An Ordinary Hero

Most Americans are too well aware of the problem that the U.S.A faces surrounding school shootings. However, one of the most tragic shootings was at Sandy Hook Elementary School where 20 innocent children were brutally shot and 6 adults died protecting them. Dawn and Mary by Doyle rivetingly retells this tragedy with the untold angle: that of the principal Dawn and the school psychologist, Mary. The lives of these brave women, who sacrifice their fulfilling lives to go against natural impulses, are presented as heroic. By the use of parallelism, imagery, and most importantly juxtaposition Doyle successfully advocates that we remember the human altruism that “leapt” to the occasion rather than focus on the maniac that was responsible for wasted innocent blood. He further compels us to never forget “that there is something is us beyond sense and reason” because in the future our turn may come when we need to be ordinary heroes. Otherwise, “what good are we?” (Doyle).

Doyle transforms the “two staffers” from a vague concept into real breathing people. Dawn is the “principal” and Mary is the “school psychologist” (Doyle). By naming the victims, the attention immediately is focused on them rather than on the shooter he never names. Further, the shooter is dehumanized to more drastically push him out of our minds through the use of imagery such as “pop-pop-pop” and “the bullets” (Doyle). Only much later is the shooter simply referred to as “the boy with the rifle” (Doyle). This belittles the adult shooter. On the other hand, Dawn and Mary are named from the start and continuously referred to. In fact Doyle dramatically retells parts of their story again and again. For example, he retells the following information at least twice: Dawn said “Lock the door after us”, “jumped, or leapt, or lunged”, and that they would “kneel down to care for small beings” (Doyle). By doing this, Doyle is shifting the personal narratives which we have about school shootings to be victim-focused or, as he would prefer, hero-focused.

Doyle presents a paralleling snapshot of the rich, meaningful lives that these women lived prior to the fatal day. As he does, these women become a unified symbol of heroism. Both women seem to mirror each other since both had two daughters, were married, and enjoyed vacationing by a “lake” (Doyle). This image of familial life bliss resonates with the reader because it is one of the American ideals. The readers can feel the victory and perseverance of Dawn’s husband who thought so highly of her that he “proposed five times before she’d finally said yes” (Doyle). The wisdom that comes with age settles on the reader’s mental picture of Mary who “was due to retire in one year” (Doyle). The many small scared children with trials beyond their age, who Mary must have saved throughout her many years, can almost be visualized. Naturally, the readers become invested in their lives. It is then that Doyle highlights the most vivid fact about these women in order to help the readers realize they are caregivers. They both “liked to get down on [their] knees” to do mundane beautiful caregiving tasks (Doyle). This parallelism of their lives and roles unites these two women as an intertwined symbol of vibrant love, heroism, and protection that continues throughout the story. No wonder, they “leapt” “toward the bullets” (Doyle). Despite or even because of the seemingly ordinariness of these women, the readers begin to adopt them as their hero’s rather than merely as heroic. This is vital to Doyle’s argument because as the readers increasingly feel for and identify with Mary and Dawn, they will begin to desire to become like them and finally see the heroism within society at large and in themselves.

Possibly the single most significant and extensive rhetorical device used by Doyle in this artwork is symbolic juxtaposition. This serves successfully to help the reader compare the actions of Dawn and Mary to the other staffers in order to persuade the readers ultimately that they need to resemble their bravery, heroism, and morality. The first way that he uses juxtaposition is by comparing “most” of the staffers who act with “sense and reason” with “but two of the staffers” who will go against “sense and reason” (Doyle). Even that but informs the readers that there is something special about Dawn and Mary. The readers can hear the silent echoes that the other staffers may have later stammered that what they did was “the reasonable thing to do, what they were trained to do”. In fact this justification exactly matches many prevailing lines of thought within society. Doyle is challenging this and suggesting that there could be another reasonable way as he holds up our heroic standalones amid “most” staffers beneath the tables. Perhaps it really is time to teach something more divine.

Doyle begins to build on the juxtaposition by showing the strength and decisiveness of Dawn and Mary in choosing to sacrifice everything rather than hiding underneath the tables. This helps the reader to develop more empathy for these women and to comprehend the magnitude of their sacrifice. Not only did they not “dive” to the ground, but Dawn and Mary “jumped, or leapt, or lunged” “toward the bullets” (Doyle). The repeating sense of motion in this description juxtaposes with the stillness and “reasonable” response of the other staffers (Doyle). The readers can feel the strength, effort, and resolution in these three simple words. They are decisive and brave. The reader’s respect and attention is gained as they question who they would resemble in this situation. However, “towards the bullets” (Doyle) suddenly feels very vulnerable to the readers because they understand the consequence of the crossfire. All of a sudden Doyle stops the narrative and provides the background information about these women. This has already been examined but it is important to consider the genius of the sequencing of Doyle’s storytelling. It is almost as if that in the split second before they “jumped, or leapt, or lunged” that they reflected. The readers begin to understand that these women were definitely rational. They knew that their ordinary but absolutely unique and marvelous lives were about to be sacrificed. They knew. Now the readers know. The anticipation and desperation of the situation is beginning to climax. Some readers are almost begging for these women to turn back, others are simply watching with their mouths gaping open in awe. The readers in essence are using Dawn and Mary to debate within themselves at this moment whether they would turn back, whether sacrificing all they have as Dawn and Mary did would be worth it.

It is now that Doyle juxtaposes the vulnerability of Dawn and Mary with both the safety of the other staffers who are locked in a classroom and their ancestors who chose to “[leap] away from danger”. This helps the readers to realize that because Dawn and Mary are free agents that perhaps they can be too. The vulnerability of Dawn and Mary is further expanded upon when “Dawn said, Lock the door after us” and they entered the hallway (Doyle). They are in the shooters path and the reader is covering their eyes so to speak because they know the end. The distinction between these brave women and the other staffers is even clearer. They are biting the bullets while the others cower beneath the tables. He dramatically implies that these women have not only behaved defiantly in comparison to the live breathing people beneath the tables but they are also opposing the “millions of years of bodies that had leapt away from danger” in the past (Doyle). These women are change agents. The imagery is strong and beautiful. They are not a product of either society or biology. They are both a free acting woman who “[snarl] at death and [run] roaring at it to defend children” (Doyle). The readers are silently captivated with the notion. They begin to feel within themselves the desire to do likewise because as Doyle gently reminds us “there is something in us beyond sense and reason”.

Doyle is aware that although his readers want to become heroes but they are afraid. So he acknowledges it in order to validate his readers and to help them slowly accept that even though facing the bullets is tough and comes with a cost, it is better than taking the easy way out. Doyle acknowledges that just as Dawn and Mary wanted to “dive under the table” because “that’s how you live to see another day”, it is normal for the readers to feel this when in demanding situations. He is kind and empathetic towards his readers as he examines the human condition. Yet, he inspires them and while he cheers Dawn and Mary on, he cheers on his readers. And just in case we missed his climax, he repeats it one last time in the final paragraph. By choosing to leave Dawn and Mary at their climax, Doyle promises that the cost is worth it. He knows that the readers will perceive the ending because of their familiarity with the fatalities of school shootings. But Doyle shows that the final fall is not as significant as when they, for the final time, “jumped, or leapt, or lunged”. Their “names” and “what they did” must live on (Doyle). Likewise, the readers begin to realize that it is not the outcome of their lives or heroic actions that matter, but rather it is the journey to heroism. One which the reader feels compelled to embark on. They want to take that “[leap]” (Doyle). In fact the readers, at this point, conclude that they must because that is how they retell the heroism of the two women. That is how they remember “all children are our children” (Doyle). That is how their memory will not be “murdered too” (Doyle). Otherwise, “What good are [they] then?” (Doyle).

Doyle does an absolutely marvelous job at prying open his reader’s eyes to see the beauty and resilience within humankind through Dawn and Mary. This was accomplished through a myriad of rhetorical tools including unifying parallelism, startling juxtaposition, and vibrant imagery. Since Doyle’s writing was so authentic the readers really feel connected with Dawn and Mary as their story comes to life. By the end of it, the readers feel compelled to follow in their footsteps and face their fears because there is something beyond violence and fear. We may not all face actual bullets, but we all will have the choice to the bite the bullets that come and be moral hero’s no matter the outcome.

Works Cited

  1. Doyle, Brian. “Dawn and Mary.” The Sun. 2013. Web. 26 February 2019.