Lack of Informed Consent Form Reading in Online Studies

Abstract

This case study will discuss the design and, unlike most methods cases, findings of an experiment in order to highlight issues around collecting informed consent and help the reader decide how to best obtain informed consent for their project. My interest in this field of research began when a colleague of mine conducted a study where multiple subjects withdrew during the second hour of his study when requested to do an awkward stress task. That situation inspired a study exploring the rates at which subjects read informed consent forms before signing them. This investigation emphasized how one could improve a severe lack of reading consent forms in an online setting where there is no additional researcher oversight. Four hundred fifty-eight students participated in a study advertised as an adult temperament study. The study actually examined whether answering five questions about the informed consent form improved the likelihood of noticing a manipulation placed in the form’s method section in the laboratory and online settings. The additional questions did improve reading the full form in both laboratory and online settings; yet, overall reading rates were still low. The study concluded that there are serious online research consent issues given subject reading rates in the online setting as only 13% of students in the online-no questions read enough of the form to notice the manipulation.

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