How did death-related stories in the media affect how people picked products? And was it better to use supermodels in cosmetics adverts than average-looking women?
The questions are certainly intriguing, but unfortunately for anyone wanting truthful answers, some of Smeesters' work turned out to be fraudulent. The psychologist, who admitted "massaging" the data in some of his papers, resigned from his position in June after being investigated ...view middle of the document...
Simonsohn carried out an independent analysis of the data and was suspicious of how perfect many of Smeesters' results seemed when, statistically speaking, there should have been more variation in his measurements.
The case, which led to two scientific papers being retracted, came on the heels of an even bigger fraud, uncovered last year, perpetrated by the Dutch psychologist Diederik Stapel. He was found to have fabricated data for years and published it in at least 30 peer-reviewed papers, including a report in the journal Scienceabout how untidy environments may encourage discrimination.
The cases have sent shockwaves through a discipline that was already facing serious questions about plagiarism.
"In many respects, psychology is at a crossroads – the decisions we take now will determine whether or not it remains a serious, credible, scientific discipline along with the harder sciences," says Chris Chambers, a psychologist at Cardiff University.
"We have to be open about the problems that exist in psychology and understand that, though they're not unique to psychology, that doesn't mean we shouldn't be addressing them. If we do that, we can end up leading the other sciences rather than following them."