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Perrault, E. K., & Nazione, S. A. (2016). Informed Consent-Uninformed Participants: Shortcomings of Online Social Science Consent Forms and Recommendations for Improvement. Journal of Empirical Research on Human Research Ethics, 11(3), 274–280. https://doi.org/10.1177/1556264616654610


As informed consent forms continue to lengthen, are these lengthening forms helping to create better informed participants? The aim of this research was to determine whether the length of consent forms affected reading frequency and comprehension, and to provide recommendations on how to improve consent forms in the social sciences so they are more likely to be read. A quasi-experiment was conducted using actual consent forms at two liberal arts schools, one requiring a long form (463 words, n = 73) and one requiring a shorter form (236 words, n = 57). Participants exposed to the shorter form reported fully reading, or at least skimming the form more frequently than those exposed to the longer form. Those exposed to the shorter form also comprehended more of the form's information. The majority of participants indicated consent forms need to be shortened if researchers want future participants to be more likely to read these forms' contents. Additional recommendations are discussed.