Psychologist falsifies research

According to a recent Wikipedia article, “Diederik Alexander Stapel (born in Oegstgeest, 19 October 1966) is a former professor of social psychology at Tilburg University and before that at the University of Groningen in the Netherlands. In 2011 Tilburg University suspended Stapel, pending further investigation, for admittedly fabricating and manipulating data for his research publications. This scientific misconduct lasted for years and affected at least 30 publications.”

Stapel worked in the field of behavioral science, and managed to behave pretty badly on his own admission. He voluntarily returned his Ph.D to the University of Amsterdam; meanwhile, Tilburg University is conducting an extensive review of his research and publications. So far, it has been found that Stapel made up the data for at least 30 publications in such places as the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology and Science magazine.

Natural News stated that, “There is no indication, however, that Stapel will be held criminally liable for his disturbing actions, or even that his studies will be withdrawn from the journals in which they were published. Bruce Alberts, editor-in-chief of Science, wrote in an “expression of concern” on the online edition of the journal that “the extent of the fraud by Stapel is substantial.”

While grotesque, this behavior is hardly surprising or unusual in a field largely dominated by fraud and false data. How many other psychologists and psychiatrists are presenting falsified research?

Big Pharma has regularly manipulated the published data on psychiatric drugs, for example.

“In 2008, research showed that pharmaceutical companies systematically failed to publish negative studies on their SSRIs, the Prozac generation of antidepressants. Of 74 clinical trials, 38 produced positive results and 36 did not: 94 per cent of the positive studies were published, but only 23 per cent of the negative ones were, and two-thirds of those were spun to make them look more positive.” [Read the full report on this here.]

The psychiatric and psychological industries are also prone to inflate statistics of mental trauma in order to justify more funding. In September 2001, a U.S. Senate hearing on “Psychological Trauma and Terrorism” was told that, “Seventy-one percent of Americans said that they have felt depressed by the [9/11] attacks.” It’s a worrying statistic, until one realizes that the survey was conducted during the six days after the 9/11 terrorist attacks when Americans were, naturally, in a state of shock. The survey sampled 1,200 people only, which, by some quantum leap, led to the conclusion that nearly three-quarters of Americans were mentally damaged, requiring “professional” help.

As experience has shown that there are many criminal mental health practitioners, the Citizens Commission on Human Rights has developed a database at that lists people in the mental health industry who have been convicted and jailed. Many have appeared in the news for fraud or abuse. Read the article about Stapel there as well.

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One Response to “Psychologist falsifies research”

  1. markusk says:

    With all due respect, but this article does contain some misunderstandings and inaccuracies. True is that Stapel cheated: he is arguably the biggest cause of fraud in science ever. However, it is grotesque to say that this kind of behavior is typical for the social and behavioral sciences. It is as (a)typical for these disciplines as any other scientific discipline. True is also that Stapel will unlikely to be held criminally responsible, simple because there are no law against lying (except when you do it in front of Congress, a Court, police, or other investigative body). However, Stapel’s fraudulent papers will be or have been retracted already. You cannot “un-print” them, but there are/will be statements in each publication that make clear that the papers are invalid.
    The 9/11 study that is being referred to makes clear that six days after the attacks Americans did report feeling depressed. Nowhere in this paper did the authors assert that Americans were “mentally damaged” as a result of 9/11, or that they should receive a clinical diagnosis of depression. All the authors of this study did was report how people felt. (And if you think back to that time, maybe even you may have felt depressed by this horrendous act.)
    The fact that pharmaceutical companies do not report negative studies is a recurring problem in MEDICAL research (something that Stapel had nothing to do with: he was a psychologist). Withholding negative results constitutes a problem of “omission”, people not sharing knowledge of something that did happen. Stapel’s case is different in that he actually made stuff up. The not-sharing of failed research is a problem everywhere, and though reprehensible, it is not dissimilar from a job candidate advertising their own strengths rather than their weaknesses (even when a future employer cannot have one without the other). Still, active deception is different from omitting facts.

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