Authors: There is a worrying amount of outright fraud in psychology


What’s hot? What’s not?/Niklas Bildhauer, Wikimedia

We’ve heard so much about the problems of psychology as a discipline in science. And as  Jack Cole points out, psychologists may simply be more inclined to self-report. But a reader sent this one in from Tom Farsides and Paul Sparks at Britain’s Psychologist, and it merits a mention anyway:

Opinion: Buried in bullshit

There is a worrying amount of outright fraud in psychology, even if it may be no more common than in other disciplines. Consider the roll call of those who have in recent years had high-status peer-reviewed papers retracted because of confirmed or suspected fraud: Marc Hauser, Jens Förster, Dirk Smeesters, Karen Ruggiero, Lawrence Sanna, Michael LaCour and, a long way in front with 58 retractions, Diederik Stapel. It seems reasonable to expect that there will be further revelations and retractions.

That’s a depressing list, but out-and-out lies in psychology may be the least of our worries. Could most of what we hold to be true in psychology be wrong (Ioannidis, 2005)? We now turn to several pieces of evidence to demonstrate compellingly that contemporary psychology is liberally sprayed with bullshit (along with some suggestions of a clean-up).

One recommendation:

3. Be honest. Championing truth requires honesty about ignorance, inadequacies, and mistakes (Salmon, 2003). Denying flaws helps no one, especially if our denials are accompanied by poorly received assertions of invincibility and superiority. Acknowledgement of weakness is a strength. Expertise should be in service of scholarship, not prioritised above it. Expertise idolatry risks encouraging defensive bullshit from the anxious and generating blinkered, dogmatic bullshit from specialists (Frankfurt, 2005; Ottati et al., 2015). More.

Good advice, but it does raise the question, why be dishonest anyway? Very few people are dishonest just for the fun of it. What were the zealous researchers hoping to achieve. Social change that are good in their view but unwanted by the public?

If tempted to despair, always remember: Things would be way worse if no one cared or did care but couldn’t safely talk about it.

See also: Even “skeptic” Michael Shermer hears the hundredth shoe drop (about bias in social sciences).


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