The discovery that the Dutch researcher Diederik A. Stapel made up the
data for dozens of research papers has shaken up the field of social
psychology, fueling a discussion not just about outright fraud, but
also about subtler ways of misusing research data...
Eric-Jan Wagenmakers, of the University of Amsterdam, added a
sociological twist to the statistical debate: Psychology, he argued in
a recent blog post
and an interview, has become addicted to surprising, counterintuitive
findings that catch the news media's eye, and that trend is warping the
In September, in comments quoted
by the statistician Andrew Gelman on his blog, Mr. Wagenmakers wrote:
"The field of social psychology has become very competitive, and
high-impact publications are only possible for results that are really
surprising. Unfortunately, most surprising hypotheses are wrong. That
is, unless you test them against data you've created yourself."
Still, this rebuttal rings true:
Robert V. Kail, editor of Psychological Science, says he's
never heard of the likelihood of press attention being used as a reason
to publish a researcher's work. Rather, he says, he asks his reviewers:
"If you are a psychologist in a specialty area, is this the kind of
result that is so stimulating or controversial or thought-provoking
that you'd want to run down the hall and tell your colleagues in
another subfield, 'This is what people in my field are doing, and it's
But how telling is this rebuttal, really? Kail's objection merely shows that researchers are trying to get results that titillate their peers rather than the general public. Is that any better?