Nobody reads the fine print

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Doug
Nobody reads the fine print

One way the authors tested whether people read forms was to have students fill out a thee-page consent form to participate in a study.  Here's an excerpt which I suspect will become a classic:

The second paragraph was a long-winded explanation of informed consent, but buried three quarters of the way through this paragraph, was a sentence suggesting that participants should not sign this consent form as its terms were clearly not in their best interests. The third and fourth paragraphs described unproblematic aspects of studies typically conducted at the university. Buried within the fifth paragraph, however, were clauses that were certain to be unacceptable if read by participants. In particular, these clauses committed participants to administering electric shocks to fellow participants, if instructed to do so, even if that participant screamed, cried, and asked for medical assistance. It also required participants to do push-ups, if the experimenter instructed them to do so. Contrary to human-subject protection guidelines, the form required participants to remain in the laboratory until and unless the experimenter allowed them to leave.

So how many signed?  87 of the 91 participants, or 95.6%.

 

http://pubcit.typepad.com/clpblog/2009/03/a-bit-more-on-whether-consumer...

 

So - you may want to actually read those contracts!

Sven Sven's picture

I'm a lawyer and I don't read every contract I sign.

Whether or not I read a contract depends entirely on how important the contract is.  If I'm buying a car and taking out a loan to finance a portion of the purchase, I just sign the damned thing.  If I make my payments, the probability of a negative consequence to me is, at most, microscopic.

If, on the other hand, I'm going to purchase a house or buy other real estate, I'm going to go through the document with a fine-toothed comb.  Likewise, if I was going to lease space for a business, I'd not only read the lease, I'd likely negotiate its terms.

In the case of being a student and participating in a university study, I wouldn't read the document either.  If they wanted me to shock unwilling people with electric probes (as in the case above), I'd say, "Fuck you...I'm outta here.  Sue me."  And, I'd walk out the door.

_______________________________________

Eleutherophobics of the World...Unite!!!

Sven Sven's picture

One other point: If I am given a critical contract to sign and it contains something that I don't understand, I don't sign it.  I either discuss the contract term with the other party to get an understanding of what the term is intended to mean (and then modify the document accordingly to reflect that intend more clearly, assuming I'm agreeable to it) or, if it's something that is highly technical, I'll hire a lawyer who specializes in the relevant area to read it and advise me.

_______________________________________

Eleutherophobics of the World...Unite!!!

Refuge Refuge's picture

When I went to buy my last car my Mom was with me.  When they gave me the contract I read the entire thing.  As I was reading the guy, who was also the owner of the car place for the last 20 years, said to my Mom "you've raised a good kid - she is the first one I have seen read the entire contract!"

I am not a lawyer so I don't know what is standard and what is not standard, so I read it to see! But most people have been suprised when they have had to sit and wait for me to read it.

ElizaQ ElizaQ's picture

 LOL Refuge.  I'm the same way.  I read everything I sign down to the grocery chain points cards. I learned the hard way when I got caught once with some BS fineprint I wasn't aware of.    Some just aren't surprised but seem to get kinda pissed or maybe just impatient as they just have to stand there twiddling their thumbs or tapping their pens at this weirdo.  

 

Refuge Refuge's picture

yep, I read the points cards too!