Wednesday, September 14, 2011

"Torturing Data Until They Confess"

In his round up of recent misconduct cases -- including those of Bruno Frey and Marc Hauser -- Andrew Gelman offers this comment by E. J. Wagenmakers, about the Marc Hauser affair:

One of the problems is that 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. There is a slippery slope here though; although very few researchers will go as far as to make up their own data, many will “torture the data until they confess”, and forget to mention that the results were obtained by torture…. [Bold emphasis added]

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If Marc Hauser has written books with titles like Moral Minds and Evilicious: Explaining Our Evolved Taste for Being Bad (forthcoming), Bruno Frey -- the guy who got his Titanic paper published in four journals -- once wrote a paper with this title Publishing as Prostitution? ... [via Kent Anderson].


  1. milieu said...

    Some similarity here with deliberate risk-taking where the person takes pleasure in doing something illegal even though there is a small chance of getting caught. This contrats with majority of cases in which the possibility of getting caught is ignored, or the person is scared of the consequences.