A PREFERENCE FOR CLEAR RATHER THAN MESSY RESULTS. The New York Times magazine (April 28) had an article by Yudhijit Bhattacharjee about Diederick Stapel, a Dutch social psychologist, who published a number of fraudulent papers based on data which he made up out of whole cloth. This post on the Retraction Watch blog singled out the quote that I found most interesting int the article. Like many areas of science, multiple variables make social psychology difficult to do. You have to design experiments or use statistics to try to account for all the variables. Retraction Watch quotes Bhattacharjee: “[The fraudster]…had been frustrated by the messiness of experimental data, which rarely led to clear conclusions. His lifelong obsession with elegance and order, he said, led him to concoct sexy results that journals found attractive….” Notice that the fraudster says that he was trying to give the journals what they wanted. In his early days, he “wrote papers laying out complicated and messy relationships between multiple variables. He soon realized that journal editors preferred simplicity. ‘They are actually telling you: ‘Leave out this stuff. Make it simpler,’ ”

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