Selected Academic Papers On the How, What and Why of Deceit

Research Through Deception. Morton Hunt. New York Times Magazine (September 1982)

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Writer Morton Hunt has a particular interest in the behavioral sciences. In this article for New York Times Magazine he takes a look at the long-debated “morality of research in which human beings may be subjected to unpleasant and possibly harmful experiences that they have not agreed to undergo…”.

Hunt recounts the following story about an eager but naive research participant and a deceitful social psychologist:

“On a spring evening two years ago, Steve Kaufman, a wiry 18-yearold whose plain-featured intensity reminds one of Dustin Hoffman, hurried across the Stanford University campus to what he thought would be an interesting and enjoyable experience. He was headed for Jordan Hall, where the department of psychology is housed and where he had been receiving training as a hypnotic subject, preparatory to an experiment scheduled for that night.

The experiment was the core of a research project being carried out by Prof. Philip Zimbardo. A social psychologist with a flair for imaginative experimentation, Zimbardo was a campus celebrity and well known in his profession.

What Steve expected to take place that evening would take place – but so would much more, for he was wholly unaware of the real but covert goal of the research project. This was to train Steve and other unsuspecting volunteers in becoming good hypnotic subjects until, in the final session, Zimbardo could tell them, while they were in a trance, that afterward they would be partially deaf but would not remember that this had been hypnotically induced. Steve would be a ”naive” subject – and would therefore react to his deafness as if it were genuine.”

Research experiments such as these subsequently led to federal regulations setting parameters and boundaries on the “permissible use of human beings in social-psychological research projects funded by major agencies.”


[This paper is cited, excerpted, published and/or reprinted by Post*factua!ly. It is part of our program to collect, index and centralize all research articles into lies, lying and liars.]

Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) research paper: Deception Maxims: Fact and Folklore (July 2015)

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The deception maxims discussed in this report represent the synthesis of a number of historical case studies by the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency CIA. These case studies are part of an ORD exploratory research program on deception. It is anticipated that these maxims and other results from this research will aid intelligence analysts in thinking about the problem of deception and in detecting, analyzing and evaluating foreign deception schemes relevant to current intelligence problems.

The report was written in 1980 and only declassified and made publicly available following a freedom of information act (FOIA) request filed in July 2015.

Reviews Without a Purchase: Low Ratings, Loyal Customers, and Deception. Eric T. Anderson. Journal of Marketing Research

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Professors Eric T. Anderson, Kellogg School of Management, Northwestern University and Duncan I. Simester, MIT Sloan School of Management, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, document a fascinating phenomenon based on fake product reviews. Their research paper shows “that approximately 5% of product reviews on a large private label retailer’s website are submitted by customers with no record of ever purchasing the product they are reviewing.”

Detecting False Intent Using Eye Blink Measures. Frank M. Marchak. Frontiers in Psychology

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Frank M. Marchak of Veridical Research and Design Corporation describes a pair of experiments to test the long-held theory that eye blink measures can be diagnostic in detecting deception regarding past acts. Marchak examines: “across two experiments with increasing degrees of ecological validity — whether changes in eye blinking can be used to determine false intent regarding future actions.”

The Prevalence of Lying in America: Three Studies of Self-Reported Lies. Kim B. Serota. Human Communication Research

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Researchers Kim B. Serota, Timothy R. Levine, and Franklin J. Boster of Michigan State University examined the distribution of lying in a fascinating study of 1,000 U.S adults, in 2010. They found that 6 in 10 people reported telling no lies, while almost 50 percent of all lies are told by only 5 percent of subjects. As they note in their report, drawing conclusions of the lying behavior of the general population are questionable since it seems that the “prevalence [of lying] varies widely and most reported lies are told by a few prolific liars.”

Deception in Marketing Research: Ethical, Methodological, and Disciplinary Implications. Allan J. Kimmel. ESCP-EAP, Graduate School of Management

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Researchers Allan J. Kimmel or ESCP-EAP, Graduate School of Management and N. Craig Smith of London Business School research paper describes a conceptual starting point for developing a more complete understanding of deception in marketing research. As the researchers state: “Although marketing researchers often find it necessary to deceive their research participants, little attention has been given within marketing to the ethical issues underlying the use of deception or to the potential consequences of deceptive research practices.”