[LINK] ArsT: 'Users are still idiots ...'

Roger Clarke Roger.Clarke at xamax.com.au
Wed Aug 25 13:04:54 AEST 2010

 From the article below, it looks like behavioural scientists are, 
belatedly, actually learning something about the human race.

The article says (1): "people are actually less likely to complete a 
survey if they're provided assurances that their answers would be 
kept confidential".

But why is this meant to be a surprise?

The language is rich in expressions that make clear that normal 
people already know such things, e.g. 'let sleeping dogs lie','don't 
scare the horses', 'that would be stirring up a hornet's nest'.

It's the reason that consumer protection and privacy laws require 
that notice be provided of such things as terms, warranties, data 
collection, data use and disclosure ... and 'confidentiality' 
(whatever that means).

(2):  "If participants were asked about their participation [in 
unethical behaviour] as part of the rating process, they were about 
1.5 times more likely to admit an ethical misstep than if they were 
simply asked point blank as a separate question. This suggested that 
a causal [sic:  I think the author meant 'casual'] approach, which 
puts a participant at ease, is more likely to get them to cough up 
personal details"
"an unprofessional-looking interface seemed to loosen participants up 
in the same manner that approaching a question indirectly did"
"the study [shows] that it's pretty easy to manipulate users into 
being more or less likely to divulge personal information"

Put differently, you get better results if people think the situation 
is different from what it really is.  Wow.  [I'm frequently scolded 
of I call this 'lying', although apparently 'constructive 
misrepresentation' is acceptable circumlocution.]

But, in Yanqui parlance, this is merely Confidence Tricksterdom 101. 
It's the foundation of most consumer marketing practice, and of all 
political behaviour.  You'd expect marketing academics to be a *bit* 
closer to the real world than the rest of the ivory tower, and hence 
to have accepted it as longstanding knowledge;  but apparently not.

As an aside, it's interesting to ponder what an ethics committee 
would think of survey designs that feature the provision of 
intentionally misleading information to participants.

At the very least, there should surely be a requirement that, before 
making any use of the data, the surveyor:
-   must provide the participants with full information
-   must offer the participant the opportunity to withdraw, and to have
     their data destroyed

But that would preclude a significant proportion of so-called social 
science.  And we couldn't have that now could we.  It's valuable, 
isn't it?


Users are still idiots, cough up personal data despite warnings

Ars Technica
By John Timmer
Last updated about 3 hours ago (twerps - they mean Wed 25 Aug 2010)

OTOH, ArsT *does* (regrettably unusually) provide a citation of the source:
Reporting on Journal of Consumer Research, 2010. DOI: 10.1086/656423

Roger Clarke                                 http://www.rogerclarke.com/
Xamax Consultancy Pty Ltd      78 Sidaway St, Chapman ACT 2611 AUSTRALIA
                    Tel: +61 2 6288 1472, and 6288 6916
mailto:Roger.Clarke at xamax.com.au                http://www.xamax.com.au/

Visiting Professor in the Cyberspace Law & Policy Centre      Uni of NSW
Visiting Professor in Computer Science    Australian National University

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