Were you buying it when Diederik Stapel of Tilburg University in the Netherlands claimed meat was behind all the aggression we humans have? Vegetarians were, sure, along with plenty of other anti-science hippies when a supposed study matches their world view and gives them a jolt of dopamine, but most of us just shook our heads.
Stapel also did a study claiming scientists discriminated more if their labs were messy. Really, psychologists can lament they are not taken more seriously but they did little to police their own - until recently. Marc Hauser was forced to resign, Satoshi Kanazawa finally got the ridicule he deserved, and now an investigation shows Stapel committed data fraud in dozens of publications and even 2/3rds of the theses he supervised were 'tainted'.
He has apologized and said he "failed as a scientist" but we have to give him a break on that one; he was never a scientist so he could not have succeeded anyway.
"People are in shock," Gerben van Kleef, a social psychologist at the University of Amsterdam, told Gretchen Vogel at Science. Really? If I take an informal poll of Science 2.0 contributors, no biologist or geologist or physicist is going to be shocked. How are social psychologists surprised by something everyone else knew?
Generally, surveys of students are rubbish anyway but Stapel took it to a whole special level; he didn't even bother to do any. He just made up the results and when he did any surveys at all he still made up the results. It's almost like he was laughing at people in his own field, or maybe he wanted to be the Tiger Woods of Social Psychology fraud and see how much he could get away with.
Why didn't they catch it sooner, even after people raised concern levels? Unlike physics or biology, social psychology is too scientifically fuzzy to say someone is wrong or demand data; if his results weren't replicated, other researchers assumed they were doing something wrong.
Gosh, I hope his study claiming that we use better manners if a wine glass is on the dinner table isn't on the questionable list. I changed my whole life based on that one. Who am I kidding? All of his studies are probably fraudulent. The University of Amsterdam is even going back to his Ph.D. work.
It may seem like this is a real crushing blow for social psychology, like the Catholic church trying to be more liberal and rehabilitating pederasts and getting busted for it, but it is just the opposite - the fact that social psychology is now demanding accountability because junior researchers are blowing the whistle on senior people, no matter how famous they are, is a very good sign.
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