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Sign on the Dotted Line: The Informed Consent Process (ICP) as Induced Compliance1


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    The studies in this manuscript were presented as posters at the 2004 (Chicago, IL) and 2005 (Los Angeles, CA) annual meetings of the American Psychological Society. The authors thank Barry E. Collins, Douglas Cremer, Lisa Gameros, and Tiffany Kleoni for their assistance in preparing the manuscript. This research was supported, in part, by a Faculty Development Grant from Woodbury University.

D. Joye Swan, Department of Psychology and Social Sciences, Woodbury University, 7500 Glenoaks Boulevard, Burbank, CA 91510. E-mail:


We investigated the social implications of signing an informed consent form (ICF) on participant behavior. ICF research fails to consider that the decision to participate in research is a process that occurs in a social and cultural context. Understanding the meaning of giving consent in this social context is critical. In separate experiments, we found significantly greater agreement to return to complete a study and persistence at a task in participants who signed the ICF versus those who did not. Signing the ICF may be putting participants at risk of induced compliance with study protocols, rather than empowering them to withhold consent or withdraw. Future research should investigate the psychosocial factors affecting participants' decision making in the informed consent process.