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:
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)
- Author #4 of 5 (Ariely) is not responsible for problems with data according to established norms of academia
- Author #1 escaped blame and Ariely implied that this was unfair
- There is no evidence against him
- 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)
- Claims once again that this assignment of blame to a 4th author violates academic norms
- He also seems to equate legitimate criticisms of his fake data scandal with criticism he has received from anti-vaxxers.
- 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.
- Dan Ariely: “People shout at me in the street, call me a murderer and a psychopath”
- Data Colada:  Evidence of Fraud in an Influential Field Experiment About Dishonesty
- Conflicts between Dan Ariely’s statement and Footnote #14 (DataColada #98)
Aaron Charlton, PhD, MBA is a marketing professional who currently works in industry for Away Clinic and Metascience & Marketing Lab and lives in Mesa, Arizona, USA. He is formerly an academic and still takes interest in improving the quality of research in the field of marketing.
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