Simulation-based education: deceiving learners with good intent

Guillaume Alinier, Denis Oriot

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

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Abstract: The level of performance of every clinician and of the overall multiprofessional team relies on the skills and expertise they have individually and collectively acquired through education, training, self-directed learning, and reflection. Simulation-based education (SBE) is playing an increasingly important role in that respect, and it is sometimes said that it is an art to facilitate. Many explanations can justify this assertion. Although there is generally an emphasis on making everything as realistic or “high-fidelity” as possible, it is often futile and this is where the art of simulation comes into play with an element of modulation of realism linked to the intended learning objectives. The atmosphere created by the educators; how the learners are made to engage and interact; how physical, technical, and contextual elements are simulated or represented; and what type of technology is used need to be appropriately adapted to contribute to the immersiveness of any SBE activity. Although it inevitably carries a negative connotation, some form of “deception” is more commonly used than one may think for the benefit of learners during SBE. High levels of realism are sometimes achieved by making learners believe something works or reacts as would be expected in real life, whereas it is achieved in a totally different manner. Learners do not need to know, see, or understand these “tricks of the trade”, shortcuts, or artistic or technological aspects, and this can be considered a form of benevolent deception. Similarly, information may be withheld to recreate a realistic situation and push learners to demonstrate specific learning outcomes, but it needs to be practised with caution and be justifiable. These forms of “positive” deception are part of most SBE activities and are used to help learners bridge the reality gap so they can suspend disbelief more easily, exercise critical thinking, and treat the simulation more realistically without damaging the trust they place in their educators. This article will discuss how aspects of SBE activities are often manipulated, modified, or hidden from learners to facilitate the learning experience and present a simulation fidelity model encompassing the environmental, patient, semantical, and phenomenal dimensions.
Original languageEnglish
Article number8
Number of pages13
JournalAdvances in Simulation
Issue number1
Early online date18 Mar 2022
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 18 Mar 2022


  • Debate Article
  • Benevolent deception
  • Fidelity
  • Realism
  • Trick
  • Make believe
  • Disbelief
  • Technology
  • Simulation
  • Debriefing
  • Information modification


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