November 3, 2011

Telling people what they want to hear

In general, the field of psychology is doing relatively well, especially compared to former contenders such as cultural anthropology. One reason is that psychologists have developed a number of quantitative tools that actually have predictive validity, such as IQ tests. 

On the other hand, there isn't a lot of press and public demand for studies gleaning wisdom from IQ tests. Instead, there's much demand for studies uncovering white racism, male sexism, and so forth. Not surprisingly, demand generates supply. From the New York Times: 
Fraud Case Seen as a Red Flag for Psychology ResearchBy BENEDICT CAREY

A well-known psychologist in the Netherlands whose work has been published widely in professional journals falsified data and made up entire experiments, an investigating committee has found. Experts say the case exposes deep flaws in the way science is done in a field, psychology, that has only recently earned a fragile respectability. 
The psychologist, Diederik Stapel, of Tilburg University, committed academic fraud in “several dozen” published papers, many accepted in respected journals and reported in the news media, according to a report released on Monday by the three Dutch institutions where he has worked ... 
In recent years, psychologists have reported a raft of findings on race biases, brain imaging and even extrasensory perception that have not stood up to scrutiny. Outright fraud may be rare, these experts say, but they contend that Dr. Stapel took advantage of a system that allows researchers to operate in near secrecy and massage data to find what they want to find, without much fear of being challenged. ... 
In a prolific career, Dr. Stapel published papers on the effect of power on hypocrisy, on racial stereotyping and on how advertisements affect how people view themselves. Many of his findings appeared in newspapers around the world, including The New York Times, which reported in December on his study about advertising and identity. 
In a statement posted Monday on Tilburg University’s Web site, Dr. Stapel apologized to his colleagues. “I have failed as a scientist and researcher,” it read, in part. “I feel ashamed for it and have great regret.” ... 
Dr. Stapel has published about 150 papers, many of which, like the advertising study, seem devised to make a splash in the media. The study published in Science this year claimed that white people became more likely to “stereotype and discriminate” against black people when they were in a messy environment, versus an organized one. Another study, published in 2009, claimed that people judged job applicants as more competent if they had a male voice. The investigating committee did not post a list of papers that it had found fraudulent. 

28 comments:

Dutch Boy said...

Scientific fraud is common:
http://www.plosone.org/article/info%3Adoi%2F10.1371%2Fjournal.pone.0005738

Anonymous said...

I have always wondered: how much of the so-called "Stereotype threat" is based on some kind of fraud?

If ever there were a set of experiments that nobody would dare question, that would be it.

Yet the results seem quite incompatible with other known results.

Anonymous said...

Another study, published in 2009, claimed that people judged job applicants as more competent if they had a male voice.

I don't think whoever did that study understands the job application process at most companies. Virtually every HR department is dominated by women, and they discriminate against good looking women in favor of plain women and attractive men:

http://www.ec.bgu.ac.il/monaster/admin/papers/1006_2.pdf

Job applicants in Europe increasingly imbed a headshot of themselves in the top corner of their CVs. We sent 5312 CVs in pairs to 2656 advertised job openings. In each pair, one CV was without a picture while the second, otherwise almost identical CV contained a picture of either an attractive male/female or a plain-looking male/female. Employer callbacks to attractive men are significantly higher than to men with no picture and to plain-looking men, nearly doubling the latter group. Strikingly, attractive women do not enjoy the same beauty premium. In fact, women with no picture have a significantly higher rate of callbacks than attractive or plain-looking women. We explore a number of explanations and provide evidence that female jealousy of attractive women in the workplace is a primary reason for the punishment of attractive women.

Assistant Village Idiot said...

I applied for a job in psych research over a decade ago and am now glad I wasn't offered it - because at the time, I would have jumped on it. Big-name, big university affiliation, later got in trouble for falsifying data.

Even the people down the line, who did their work with scrupulous honesty, don't work in the field again after that happens.

Anonymous said...

@dutch boy
i try to argue this with the global warming people about this.. and they'll have none of it.. they claim big oil companies put out fake research but can't see why federally funded research might be flawed.

no accident that post WASP elite america- the ascendancy of the baby boom ethnic elite, has corresponded with plummeting ethical standards in all walks of life.

I am a Cult, not a Cause. said...

Stephen Jay Gould.

Black doll, white doll.

Iraq WMD.

Obama the genius and king of peace.

The idiocy never ends.

Of course, the fact the scientist committed fraud doesn't mean his theories are necessarily wrong, but he has lost all credibility.
Same with global warming. It could be real and could be man-made, but there so many lies and pressure toward consensus.

Elmer Gantry said...

The witch burners, riverside tent revivalist and religious snake handlers of yesteryear are today's leftist cultural warriors and PC enforcers.

They preach from the academic pulpits from the books of soft sciences like anthropology and sociology. This guy, like Gould and many others, conducts obvious massive scientific fraud to save the PC minds of the masses. It's not to advance science, seek truth or convince those minority who are smart enough to know better.

I am a Cult, not a Cause. said...

One good thing about internet is stuff like this is exposed and discredited faster.

I am a Cult, not a Cause. said...

Ironic that NYT should be critical of this. Its very policy is to see the world with blinders on. The whole culture, of which NYT is a part, created and nurtured people like Stapel, who are the staple of PC.

Steve Sailer said...

Don't tell anybody I said so, but Benedict Carey is pretty good.

Conatus said...

Perhaps things will change and Psychology will no longer be used to pathologize white ethnic allegiances and white ancestry pride, as it has been used for the last forty years beginning with the Frankfort School and Adorno. It seems Psychology is used to create a sort of stuttering self-consciousness on the part of whites while most other ethnic groups get to glory in their psychic health.

Whiskey said...

Conatus -- Steve Jobs, Marketer Extraordinaire, could not sell the Lisa. Apple could not sell the Newton. Bill Gates could not sell Clippy or Microsoft Bob (headed by his wife). GM could not sell the Corvair. GM can hardly sell its cars today. Marketing failures abound by folks very skilled at marketing and with very big budgets. Often with no real competition (LaserDisk, Minidisc).

So how come the mind control rays of the Frankfurt School "work" when what they are selling is BS, and acts to the detriment of most White guys not born rich and connected?

My answer is that it is not nefarious evil-doers (though they exist for sure) but a broad social change that makes critical parts of their message suddenly viable where before it was not, even over the objections of those it hurts (White guys without connections/fame/wealth).

Telling people what they want to hear requires that a whole lot of people want to hear it.

Anonymous said...

I consider psychology to be a pseudo-discipline and have told my son that if he wants to major in it, he can do it on his own dime.

Enlightened American said...

i try to argue this with the global warming people about this.. and they'll have none of it.. they claim big oil companies put out fake research but can't see why federally funded research might be flawed.

There is a huge difference between flawed and falsified, and the recent BEST study performed an analysis of temperature records from scratch and found the same warming claimed by conventional climate studies.  They even reproduced Mann's much-derided hockey stick.

Unfortunately, conservative dogma is that AGW is a liberal conspiracy.  This is very unfortunate for the HBD, citizenist and counter-jihad communities, because the single biggest blow one could strike against immigration by cousin-marrying, Islam-practicing, low-IQ hostiles is to get rid of oil consumption by driving electric cars.  If the Umma had no oil money, it would be poor, starving, and unable to buy our officials.

Anonymous said...

get rid of oil consumption by driving electric cars

And where does the electricity come from? Either more fossil fuel consumption - or nuclear.

NOTA said...

Anonymous:

Jerry Pournelle pointed out, after a few years of misadventure in Iraq and Afghanistan, that for the cost of those wars, we could have built enough nuclear plants to make that workable.

Cult:

The overwhelming majority of people working in the field believe the climate is warming and that human CO2 emissions are very likely an important part of the cause. I have seen a few people point out reasons to doubt the conclusions of the whole climatology field, centering around concerns with the meaningfulness of computer modeling to answer questions about future climate, groupthink, funding feedback loops, etc. But none of that is an actual argument against AGW, just a reason to maintain a little skepticism. The actual arguments I see claiming AGW is a lie or a conspiracy are always pretty obviously politically driven--working backward from what they want the answer to be to what they will claim must be true about reality. This is exactly the thought process that leads so many people to dismiss HBD out of hand--if this were true, it would imply things I don't want to be true, so it must be false.

The overlap between political movements and claims about reality (and particularly, blanket dismissals of whole areas of science and technology and sources of data on ideological grounds) is a force for pure evil in the world. In the US, both parties do this, but it looks to me like the Republicans are notably worse.

Enlightened American said...

And where does the electricity come from? Either more fossil fuel consumption - or nuclear.

The complete lack of nuclear-related fatalities (despite the newsworthy troubles) at Fukushima Dai'ichi converted George Monbiot from neutral to pro-nuclear.  The oil lobby is against nuclear power, and that should be reason enough for you to be for it.

Anonymous said...

So how come the mind control rays of the Frankfurt School "work" when what they are selling is BS, and acts to the detriment of most White guys not born rich and connected?

Imagine if GM were able to control 90% of the output of every TV/radio network, newspaper and magazine?

Id imagine they could have sold a lot more Corvairs then.

Anonymous said...

Psychology is not a science in the sense that physics, chemistry and biology are. A lot of psychometrists like to call themselves "scientists" to try to claim the objectivity of the real sciences. They are like charmless children, dressing up in white coats and writing numbers in notebooks and saying "look at me, Daddy, I'm a scientist too", without knowing what science means.

Sideways said...

And where does the electricity come from? Either more fossil fuel consumption - or nuclear.essentially all our electricity comes from coal, nuclear, hydro, and natural gas. No need to import those, although Canada is an option if we do.

Geoff Matthews said...

Enlightened American,

Part of the scientific method is/should be not taking someone's word for it. That Berkley Earth study is being criticized:

http://blogs.telegraph.co.uk/news/jamesdelingpole/100114292/lying-cheating-climate-scientists-caught-lying-cheating-again/

Anonymous said...

This raises the basic "denial of lying" issue. Lies probably account for about 20% of what's said, but anytime a lie comes to light, it's a shocking discovery, the first time anyone has ever lied. most who lie are strong proponents of proof beyond a reasonable doubt when under suspicion and defiant iagos when caught. however, if people accept that lying is to be expected a significant minority percentage of the time, then many false claims, not the least seemingly overreaching academic ones, can be questioned instantly as "possibly one of the 20% that are lies".

Many people in the Steve Jobs mold will grasp at any false pretext as an expedient justification in the moment. They might represent 5% of the population, a presence in every field out there. Natural exaggerators, they will probably account for a larger percentage of major claims. As their background software contains the expedient lying module, there is really no escaping their effect.

Anonymous said...

They should do a study of why media censor such following news and why liberals make lame excuses of such when they do here of it.
Got some 'splaining to do-- why four blacks raping an elderly hispanic/White male is NOT news.
http://www.kfoxtv.com/news/news/elderly-man-raped-socorro/nFT9K/

Enlightened American said...

Mr. Matthews,

Part of the scientific method is/should be not taking someone's word for it. That Berkley Earth study is being criticized

Do you practice what you preach?  If you read that blog closely you'll see that the source of the criticism is something called the "Global Warming Policy Foundation".  A trivial search turns up the fact that GWPF gets office space from the Institute of Materials, Minerals and Mining and is generally opposed to environmental science.

Who do you think benefits more from a slanted process in their favor:  Berkeley scientists, or English coal companies?  Follow the money here.

Since lying is being taken as a given, also look at the consequences of lying.  A researcher who is proven to have falsified research (lied) is out of a career, kaput, done.  A PR firm or think tank which lies effectively gets more business.  You can't trust a PR firm or think tank as far as you can throw it.

TGGP said...

Oddly enough, I agree with Whiskey. As Robin Hanson once said, it would be better if voters were actually sheep because then you could get them to converge on the truth!

And yes, HBD folks should not lash themselves to AGW heterodoxy. Regarding BEST specifically, Steve McIntyre of Climate Audit seems to regard it as good science.

David said...

Anonymous said

>the ascendancy of the baby boom ethnic elite, has corresponded with plummeting ethical standards<

What do you mean by "the baby boom ethnic elite"?

Enlightened American said

>Who do you think benefits more from a slanted process in their favor: Berkeley scientists, or English coal companies? Follow the money here.<

A better question is which is stronger: the Berkeley scientists' anti-capitalist assumptions, or English coal companies' evasions regarding information crucial to their livelihoods? Some people's mindset or culture of destroying for the sake of destroying is stronger than others' desire to be hypocrites. In fact, since the former is less psychologically conflicted than the latter, the former is almost always the stronger.

Enlightened American said...

@David:

A better question is which is stronger: the Berkeley scientists' anti-capitalist assumptions

Hard scientists are among the most apolitical people alive.  The first AGW-related analyses in the USA were done by non-partisan expert panels in the 1950's.  These were men (all men) who had just come through WWII; to call them anti-capitalist is to call yourself an idiot.

Some people's mindset or culture of destroying for the sake of destroying is stronger than others' desire to be hypocrites.

In other words, you view researchers who find "politically incorrect" results as evil.  Even if they have checked and double-checked their work, even if they are warning of consequences and not engaging in politics by prescribing policy, they're evil.  You might as well put horns, fangs and bat wings on them and call them demons.

People like you scare me.  Your kind of disconnection from reality leads to cultural suicide like the Ghost Dance, and I'd rather live thankyouverymuch.  The political right has a tailor-made response to the demand that carbon emissions be slashed.  That response is nuclear energy.  But you can see that the agenda is being driven by the coal and oil interests because nuclear energy, which threatens them as much or more, is not on the table.  It's not even mentioned; it's as taboo on the right as on the left.

Dutch Boy said...

It’s science’s dirtiest secret: The “scientific method” of testing hypotheses by statistical analysis stands on a flimsy foundation. Statistical tests are supposed to guide scientists in judging whether an experimental result reflects some real effect or is merely a random fluke, but the standard methods mix mutually inconsistent philosophies and offer no meaningful basis for making such decisions. Even when performed correctly, statistical tests are widely misunderstood and frequently misinterpreted. As a result, countless conclusions in the scientific literature are erroneous, and tests of medical dangers or treatments are often contradictory and confusing.

Replicating a result helps establish its validity more securely, but the common tactic of combining numerous studies into one analysis, while sound in principle, is seldom conducted properly in practice.

Experts in the math of probability and statistics are well aware of these problems and have for decades expressed concern about them in major journals. Over the years, hundreds of published papers have warned that science’s love affair with statistics has spawned countless illegitimate findings. In fact, if you believe what you read in the scientific literature, you shouldn’t believe what you read in the scientific literature.

“There is increasing concern,” declared epidemiologist John Ioannidis in a highly cited 2005 paper in PLoS Medicine, “that in modern research, false findings may be the majority or even the vast majority of published research claims.”

Ioannidis claimed to prove that more than half of published findings are false, but his analysis came under fire for statistical shortcomings of its own. “It may be true, but he didn’t prove it,” says biostatistician Steven Goodman of the Johns Hopkins University School of Public Health. On the other hand, says Goodman, the basic message stands. “There are more false claims made in the medical literature than anybody appreciates,” he says. “There’s no question about that.”

Nobody contends that all of science is wrong, or that it hasn’t compiled an impressive array of truths about the natural world. Still, any single scientific study alone is quite likely to be incorrect, thanks largely to the fact that the standard statistical system for drawing conclusions is, in essence, illogical. “A lot of scientists don’t understand statistics,” says Goodman. “And they don’t understand statistics because the statistics don’t make sense.”

Science News Friday, November 4th, 2011