This morning I received a blast email in a group of which I'm a member, offering for free to the first taker a set of items I have never had, nor do I think I will ever have, interest in owning. I thought, "Now, why don't they just throw away those things? Nobody is going to want that set!" I was surprised, then, at just how quickly the "seller" emailed the group back and declared in ALLCAPS that the items were TAKEN!!!!! (with many exclamation marks), clearly seeking to stem the flow of some email bombardment of interested recipients.
For half a moment, I thought of posting a similar offer, just to see how much interest there would be, and then just telling all interested parties that the items had been claimed by someone else. It immediately struck me, however, that this would certainly be unethical, but perhaps could be done as part of a study*. Now, though, I'm curious: Is it ethical, that is, in accordance with Jewish law and philosophy, to conduct a psychological survey of this sort? There is no tangible harm, but it is false and misleading, though it would satisfy some curious (and potentially psychologically valuable) need to know how people react to certain stimuli. But it's a lie. But we can learn from it. But it's misleading.
I can think of a handful of issues, but I'm curious to know what recognized Posekim and traditional Jewish sources have to say about such matters.
*Please note: I am not a psychologist, nor do I have the wherewithal (or time) to conduct such a study. I just want to know if these things are deemed ethical in Judaism.