AskDefine | Define deception

Dictionary Definition



1 a misleading falsehood [syn: misrepresentation, deceit]
2 the act of deceiving [syn: deceit, dissembling, dissimulation]
3 an illusory feat; considered magical by naive observers [syn: magic trick, conjuring trick, trick, magic, legerdemain, conjuration, illusion]

User Contributed Dictionary


Past participle of decipere "deceive"


  1. Gerund form of to deceive; tricking someone into believing a lie.


Gerund form of to deceive; tricking someone into believing a lie

Related terms

Extensive Definition

Deception (also called beguilement) is the act of convincing another to believe information that is not true, or not the whole truth as in certain types of half-truths.
Deception involves concepts like propaganda, distraction and/or concealment. Fiction, while sometimes manipulative, is not a deception unless it is portrayed as the whole truth.
In many cases it is difficult to distinguish deception from providing unintentionally wrong information. One of the reasons for this is that a person or an entire organization may be self-deceived.


Dissimulation consists of concealing the truth, or in the case of half-truths, concealing parts of the truth, like inconvenient or secret information. There are three dissimulation techniques: camouflage (blend into the background), disguise appearance (altering the model) and dazzle (obfuscate the model).


The camouflage of a physical object often works by breaking up the visual boundary of that object. This usually involves colouring the camouflaged object with the same colours as the background against which the object will be hidden. In the realm of deceptive half-truths camouflage is realized by 'hiding' some of the truths.

Disguise appearance

A disguise is an appearance to create the impression of being somebody or something else; for a well-known person this is also called incognito.
  • The fictional Sherlock Holmes often disguised himself as somebody else to avoid being recognized.
In a more abstract sense, 'disguise' may refer to the act of disguising the nature of a particular proposal in order to hide an unpopular motivation or effect associated with that proposal. This is a form of political spin or propaganda. See also: rationalisation and transfer within the techniques of propaganda generation.
  • Depicting an act of war as a "peace" mission.


  • The defensive mechanisms of most octopuses to eject black ink in a large cloud to aid in escape from predators.


Simulation consists of exhibiting false information. There are three simulation techniques: mimicry (copying another model), fabrication (making up a new model), and attraction (offering an alternative model)


In the biological world, mimicry involves unconscious deception by similarity to another organism, or to a natural object. Animals for example may deceive predators or prey by visual, auditory or other means.


To make something that in reality is not what it appears to be. For example, in World War II, it was common for the Allies to use hollow tanks made out of cardboard to fool German reconnaissance planes into thinking a large armor unit was on the move in one area while the real tanks were well hidden and on the move in a location far from the fabricated "dummy" tanks.


To get someone's attention from the truth by offering bait or something else more tempting to divert attention away from the object being concealed. For example, a security company publicly announces that it will ship a large gold shipment down one route, while in reality take a different route.

Deception in Psychological Experimentation

The use of deception in psychological experimentation is a methodological procedure where the researchers purposely mislead or misinform the participants about the true nature of the experiment. The process of concealing information from the participants is omission and the purposely misleading the participants about what is being studied is commission. The use of deception is reserved only for when it is absolutely necessary to preserve the naturalness of the participants’ behavior and the researcher must follow specific guidelines set forth by the American Psychological Association (APA).

APA Guidelines for use of Deception in Psychological Research:

8.07 Deception in Research

(a) Psychologists do not conduct a study involving deception unless they have determined that the use of deceptive techniques is justified by the study's significant prospective scientific, educational, or applied value and that effective nondeceptive alternative procedures are not feasible.
(b) Psychologists do not deceive prospective participants about research that is reasonably expected to cause physical pain or severe emotional distress.
(c) Psychologists explain any deception that is an integral feature of the design and conduct of an experiment to participants as early as is feasible, preferably at the conclusion of their participation, but no later than at the conclusion of the data collection, and permit participants to withdraw their data.

8.08 Debriefing

(a) Psychologists provide a prompt opportunity for participants to obtain appropriate information about the nature, results, and conclusions of the research, and they take reasonable steps to correct any misconceptions that participants may have of which the psychologists are aware.
(b) If scientific or humane values justify delaying or withholding this information, psychologists take reasonable measures to reduce the risk of harm.
(c) When psychologists become aware that research procedures have harmed a participant, they take reasonable steps to minimize the harm.(Association, 2003)

When is the use of Deception Justified in Psychological Experimentation:

1. When it is necessary to investigate important research questions involving the observation of true human behavior, which could not be examined through other means
2. When the use of deception would not cause more risk to the participant than everyday life events.
3. When the researcher thoroughly debriefs the participants immediately at the conclusion of the experiment, and explains what was studied.
4. All APA Guidelines and Code of Ethics are followed.
5. Research is approved by proper authorities (IRB’s, etc.).

Pros of using Deception in Psychological Experimentation:

1. Deception increases the impact of the experimental environment; making the experimental situation more realistic in turn increasing internal validity of a study.
2. Deception allows for studying human life that a researcher would not necessarily be able to study ethically.
3. With deception a researcher is able to protect against problems with participants. For example, a participant's motives can affect how he/she responds in an experimental situation.

Cons of using Deception in Psychological Experimentation:

1. Deception can be ethically irresponsible.
2. Participants cooperate accordingly only in an environment of clarity, openness, and trust. They can get defensive when they feel they are being misled by the experimenter.
3. Some participants might develop emotional or mental issues because they feel they were lied to.

Examples of Deception in Psychological Experimentation:

"Danger: Severe Shock" An experiment conducted by Research Stanley Milgram in 1963 used deception. The deception in this experiment includes the researcher telling the participant that he will be participating in an experiment involving the effects of punishment upon learning. But actually the study looks at the participant's willingness to obey hurtful commands. Ultimately the participant was to administer increasing amounts of electric shock to a confederate when the confederate answered a question incorrectly posed by the researcher. The confederate begins to react to the electric shock, screaming and yelling in agony, but the participant in the experiment is urged to continue with the electric shock despite his reluctance.

See also


Further reading

  • Mitchell, Robert W.; Thompson, Nicholas S., eds., Deception. Perspectives on Human and Nonhuman Deceit. New York: State University of New York Press
deception in Bulgarian: Мистификация
deception in Czech: Mystifikace
deception in German: Täuschung
deception in Spanish: Engaño
deception in French: Déception (militaire)
deception in Scottish Gaelic: Aghaidh-choimheach
deception in Ido: Trompo
deception in Italian: Mistificazione
deception in Dutch: Mystificatie
deception in Russian: Обман
deception in Yiddish: אויספאפן

Synonyms, Antonyms and Related Words

acting, affectation, airy nothing, appearance, artifice, attitudinizing, autism, befooling, bluff, bluffing, bubble, burial, burying, casuistry, cheat, cheating, chicane, chicanery, chimera, clouding, color, coloring, concealedness, concealment, covering, covering up, covertness, cunning, darkening, daydream, deceit, deceptiveness, defrauding, deluded belief, delusion, dereism, dirt, disguise, dishonesty, dissemblance, dissembling, dissimulation, double-dealing, dream, dream vision, dreamland, dreamworld, dupery, duping, duplicity, equivocation, facade, face, fake, fakement, fakery, faking, false air, false belief, false front, false show, falsity, feigning, feint, flam, four-flushing, fraud, front, gilt, gloss, guile, gulling, gyp, hallucination, hanky-panky, hiddenness, hiding, hoax, hoodwinking, humbug, humbuggery, hypocrisy, ignis fatuus, illusion, impose, imposture, indirection, interment, intrigue, invisibility, knavery, manipulation, masking, masquerade, meretriciousness, mirage, misbelief, misconception, mystification, obscuration, obscurement, occultation, ostentation, outward show, overreaching, pipe dream, playacting, pose, posing, posture, pretense, pretension, pretext, putting away, representation, ride, rip-off, ruse, screening, secrecy, secretion, seeming, self-deceit, self-deception, self-delusion, sell, semblance, sham, sharp practice, show, simulacrum, simulation, snow job, sophism, sophistry, speciousness, spoof, spuriousness, stratagem, subterfuge, tergiversation, treachery, trick, trickery, trip, uncommunicativeness, vapor, varnish, wile, window dressing, wrong impression
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