In one of the biggest cases of scientific fraud on record, a prominent psychologist has admitted fabricating data in dozens of studies.
Diederik Stapel, who was suspended from his post at Tilburg University in the Netherlands in September, was exceptionally productive. He was responsible for a succession of eye-catching studies on topics including stereotyping and discrimination, the effectiveness of advertising, and the circumstances in which people may perversely prefer negative feedback to praise.
Stapel was suspended after three junior researchers alleged scientific misconduct. But the extent of the problems became known only on Monday, when the university released an interim report concluding that dozens of papers, as well as 14 out of the 21 PhD theses Stapel had supervised, contain fabricated data.
"This is absolutely horrifying," says Laura King, a social psychologist at the University of Missouri in Columbia. "We are talking about research that has major impact in the field of social cognition." Social cognition is the field of psychology that investigates how our mental processes affect the way we relate to one another. Continue reading