More fraud in the social psychology field: A psychologist at Erasmus University in Rotterdam has resigned, with two of his papers now retracted.


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More fraud in the social psychology field: A psychologist at Erasmus University in Rotterdam has resigned for faking data, with two of his papers now retracted.

[Dirk] Smeesters conceded to employing the so-called “blue-dot technique,” in which subjects who have apparently not read study instructions carefully are identified and excluded from analysis if it helps bolster the outcome. According to the report, Smeesters said this type of massaging was nothing out of the ordinary. He “repeatedly indicates that the culture in his field and his department is such that he does not feel personally responsible, and is convinced that in the area of marketing and (to a lesser extent) social psychology, many consciously leave out data to reach significance without saying so.”

But the university panel goes on to say that it can’t determine whether the numbers Smeesters says he massaged existed at all. He could not supply raw data for the three problematic experiments; they had been stored on a computer at his home that had crashed in September 2011 and whose data his brother-in-law had assured him were irretrievable. In addition, the “paper-and-pencil data” had also been lost when Smeesters moved house. The panel says it cannot establish Smeesters committed fraud, but says he is responsible for the loss of the raw data and their massaging.

That Smeesters considers it perfectly okay to manipulate data to strengthen his conclusions tells us how little he knows about science. That he considers this “common in his field” suggests that we should probably not pay much attention to almost anything published in the field of social psychology, especially considering last year’s scandal.

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