Dan Ariely claims authorship order shields him from blame; speculates that a low-level envelope stuffer committed the fraud

If you haven’t heard, world-famous marketing professor, Dan Ariely, was caught with fake data in fall of 2021. I’m not saying that he faked the data but he hasn’t done anything yet (show evidence, explain what happened, etc.) that would make anybody think it was someone else. Well in June of 2022, he finally did offer more commentary to an Israeli publication but in my opinion it hurt his case more than helped it. Link to the article.

In the article, Dan Ariely claims or strongly implies:

  1. The Data Colada article[update: not clear what report/reporting he’s referring to. Maybe all of the reporting (media/blogs,etc.)?] is full of errors (without specifying what the errors might be)
  2. Author #4 of 5 (Ariely) is not responsible for problems with data according to established norms of academia
  3. Author #1 escaped blame and Ariely implied that this was unfair
  4. There is no evidence against him
  5. Claims or strongly implies that blame should be assigned in the following order: 1st author, 2nd author, 3rd author, 5th author (because the 5th is PhD advisor to #1) then last of all #4 (Ariely)
  6. Claims once again that this assignment of blame to a 4th author violates academic norms
  7. He also seems to equate legitimate criticisms of his fake data scandal with criticism he has received from anti-vaxxers.
  8. And he claims to be shocked by the negative response to this “mistake;” claims it is way overblown.

First of all, to be clear, this is scandalous. Of all the authors, only Dan Ariely handled the data. Nina Mazar, the analyst, received the fake data directly from Ariely. According to Excel metadata, Ariely (a) created the Excel spreadsheet, and (b) was the last one to edit it. He also had to admit that he had manipulated the conditions column, first mislabeling the conditions in an attempt to simplify the wording, then when Nina pointed out a problem, he told her to flip all of the conditions because he had mislabeled them. So he definitely did manipulate the data according to him (though he has also said he never touched the data).

Ariely speculates that low-level envelope stuffers are to blame

In the original Data Colada post, they find that the fraud was committed by (a) Dan Ariely, (b) a member of his lab or (c) someone at the insurance company. Ariely rules out himself and members of his lab in the article. He claims that low-level people (presumably at the insurance agency) messed up, got lazy, sloppy, etc. so they faked the data. These are people that would be sending out the mail for the study and entering in the results manually. The problem with this idea as many have pointed out is that such a low-level worker wouldn’t have a clue what Dan Ariely’s hypothesis was or how to help him get published at PNAS. It’s more likely that they would be completely unfamiliar with statistics and if the experiment was properly run they might even be completely naive to the hypothesis.


  1. Dan Ariely: “People shout at me in the street, call me a murderer and a psychopath”
  2. Data Colada: [98] Evidence of Fraud in an Influential Field Experiment About Dishonesty
  3. Conflicts between Dan Ariely’s statement and Footnote #14 (DataColada #98)


10 responses to “Dan Ariely claims authorship order shields him from blame; speculates that a low-level envelope stuffer committed the fraud”

  1. Jazi Zilber Avatar
    Jazi Zilber

    you haven’t read the cited Hebrew interview at all, it seems.

    I appreciate that you funny read Hebrew. but it’s not an excuse to cite with multiple errors.

    1. Aaron Charlton Avatar

      Please let me know what I got wrong.

      1. Amit Avatar

        Just wanted to say that I (a native hebrew speaker) read this article a while ago and was outraged by exactly the same points raised by Aaron.
        I specifically found the blaming of the 1st author and the “Im only the 4th author” defense especially ridiculous and repugnant.

        Aaron’s take is exactly how I remember the article.

    2. Aaron Charlton Avatar

      I’ve updated #1 above based on your interpretation. Let me know when you are done translating and I will post a link to your version of the translation. Thanks!

  2. Misha Avatar

    Of course Dan Ariely manipulated the data. I don’t think there is a doubt if you read the details and the ongoing discussion about it is useless. My personal opinion- he should be suspended for a couple of years, like athletes who take drugs. We need truth and also brilliant people like Dan – its a good compromise but he will never admit it and the academic process is too complex to find a clear path to blame him.

    1. Aaron Charlton Avatar

      If true that he did fake the data then the biggest question is “what does this mean for all of his other papers?” There’s no way to check all of the data from all of his papers (most of it is not even posted), no way to replicate all of his findings. We rely on honesty in this profession so when you come across a researcher who is willing to just fake up a whole study, you kind have to discount all of their work–at least all of the work where they touched the data. Ariely is a good story teller and has a likable public persona (I’ve also heard good things from those who have worked with him) but at the end of the day, if you’re a scientist, we have to be able to trust you.

  3. Elina Halonen Avatar
    Elina Halonen

    Is there any way to copy-paste the English translation of the Haaretz article? I’d prefer to not take a subscription to a newspaper I’ll never read…

    1. Aaron Charlton Avatar

      Best I can do is say you can use Google Translate to read the Hebrew version. I believe Jazi Zilber posted the relevant portions to this site: https://placeholdertexts.blogspot.com/2022/08/dan-ariely-interview-hebrew.html so you don’t have to pay.

  4. Paul Alan Thompson Avatar
    Paul Alan Thompson

    If a person changes the interpretation of values in a spreadsheet, and “first mislabeling the conditions in an attempt to simplify the wording, then when Nina pointed out a problem, he told her to flip all of the conditions because he had mislabeled them. “, this is NOT manipulation. This is clarification. It’s all too easy to get the interpretation of values confused.

  5. Tim Avatar

    Don’t put your name on a paper if you don’t want to take responsibility for errors later on. You cannot just take credit on the upside and take no responsibility on the downside. This is ridiculous. I will never ever trust anything by Dan Ariely again. I watched quite of few of his Ted talks. I am disgusted.

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