Posted on November 4, 2011

Fraud Case Seen as a Red Flag for Psychology Research

Benedict Carey, New York Times, November 2, 2011

A well-known psychologist in the Netherlands whose work has been published widely in professional journals falsified data and made up entire experiments, an investigating committee has found. Experts say the case exposes deep flaws in the way science is done in a field, psychology, that has only recently earned a fragile respectability.

The psychologist, Diederik Stapel, of Tilburg University, committed academic fraud in “several dozen” published papers, many accepted in respected journals and reported in the news media, according to a report released on Monday by the three Dutch institutions where he has worked: the University of Groningen, the University of Amsterdam, and Tilburg. {snip}

{snip} In recent years, psychologists have reported a raft of findings on race biases, brain imaging and even extrasensory perception that have not stood up to scrutiny. {snip}


In a prolific career, Dr. Stapel published papers on the effect of power on hypocrisy, on racial stereotyping and on how advertisements affect how people view themselves. {snip}

In a statement posted Monday on Tilburg University’s Web site, Dr. Stapel apologized to his colleagues. “I have failed as a scientist and researcher,” it read, in part. “I feel ashamed for it and have great regret.”

{snip} Dr. Stapel has published about 150 papers, many of which, like the advertising study, seem devised to make a splash in the media. The study published in Science this year claimed that white people became more likely to “stereotype and discriminate” against black people when they were in a messy environment, versus an organized one. {snip}