Deception in Management Accounting Experimental Research: “A Tricky Issue” Revisited

Theresa Libby, Steven E. Salterio
  • Journal of Management Accounting Research, June 2019, American Accounting Association
  • DOI: 10.2308/jmar-52217

Deception in Management Accounting Experimental Research: "A Tricky Issue" Revisited

What is it about?

Management accounting scholars generally accept the proposition that our subject matter requires a multi-disciplinary approach to study. One research methods issue that has become more controversial in recent years is the appropriateness of the experimenter deceiving experimental participants. Broadly speaking there are two main perspectives from different base disciplines about experimental deception: “deception if necessary” (social psychology) and “deception should be banned” (experimental economics). Our goal is to develop a common understanding within the management accounting research community about what constitutes deceptive research practices. We review the viewpoints and arguments supporting the two main views and analyze the transfer of their norms into management accounting research. We then develop a framework that evaluates the need for and potential consequences of using deception.

Why is it important?

Our analysis implies the need for careful consideration ex-ante of the decision to employ deception and case-by-case editorial review of experiments employing deception in light of the considerations raised in this article. In the long run, we suggest that the management accounting research community consider if an explicit policy statement on the role of deception in management accounting research is warranted or whether a case-by-case approach as advocated by us as an interim measure is sufficient.

Perspectives

Dr Theresa Libby
University of Waterloo

We were motivated to write this article because of informal conversations about the issue that we had been having with management accounting experimental researchers as well as the more formal and interesting panel discussion on the use of deception in research that took place at the 2015 AAA Management Accounting Section Midyear meeting. I personally learned a lot about the historical debate around deception in course of writing this paper and developing the framework for thinking through this issue that's presented in the paper will inform my own design choices in the future. My hope is that others also find this perspective useful.

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http://dx.doi.org/10.2308/jmar-52217

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