In 2011, Diederik Stapel, a bright social psychologist at Tilburg University in the Netherlands, was suspended for fabricating data on a study that brought him much praise. At the Guardian, Stephen Buranyi profiles the team of researchers from the university’s psychology department, Chris Hartgerink and Marcel van Assen, who have since focused their research on scientific fraud.
Stapel had a knack for devising and executing such clever studies, cutting through messy problems to extract clean data. Since becoming a professor a decade earlier, he had published more than 100 papers, showing, among other things, that beauty product advertisements, regardless of context, prompted women to think about themselves more negatively, and that judges who had been primed to think about concepts of impartial justice were less likely to make racially motivated decisions.
His findings regularly reached the public through the media. The idea that huge, intractable social issues such as…
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