Over the past two decades, dozens of behavioral scientists have gained notoriety for pointing out the power of micro-interventions to improve well-being.
The scientists found that enrolling people in organ donor programs resulted in higher donation rates, and that placing healthy foods like fruit at the front of the buffet line resulted in healthier diets, the scientists said.
Many of these findings have attracted skepticism, as other scholars have shown that their effects are smaller than originally claimed or that they have no effect at all. But in recent days, the field may have yet to sustain its most serious defeat: A prominent behavioral scientist has produced several studies that show at least one way to cultivate honest behavior.
The scholar, Francesca Gino of Harvard Business School, has authored dozens of papers in peer-reviewed journals on topics such as how rituals such as silently counting to 10 before deciding what to eat increase the likelihood of making healthy food choices. And how networking can make professionals dirty.
Maurice Schweitzer, an ethical scientist at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, said the lawsuit is making a big impression “in the academic community” because Dr. Gino has “so many collaborators, so many articles, who is really the leading scholar in the field.”
Dr. Schweitzer said that he is now working with Dr. Gino on eight papers showing fraud, and several other scholars are working on it.
Behavioral work is common in psychology, management, and economics, and scholars can straddle these disciplines. Based on her research, Dr. Gino has a Ph.D. in Economics and Management from an Italian university.
Questions about her work are addressed in a June 16 Chronicle of Higher Education article about a 2012 paper written by Dr. Gino and four colleagues. One of Dr. Gino’s co-authors — Max H. Bazerman, a fellow at Harvard Business School — said the university reported that a study of Dr. Gino’s paper appeared to include inventions.
In the year A 2012 paper found that asking people filling out tax or insurance documents to confirm the truthfulness of their answers at the top of the document significantly increased the accuracy of the information they provided. The paper has been cited hundreds of times by other scholars, but recent work has cast serious doubt on its findings.
Dr. Gino did not respond to requests for comment, and Harvard Business School declined to comment. “Obviously it’s a very sensitive thing that we can’t talk about right now,” said one person who identified himself as Dr. Gino’s wife.
Dr. Bazerman did not respond to a request for comment for this article, but told the Chronicle of Higher Education that he had nothing to do with any of the rumors.
On June 17, Datacolada, a blog run by three behavioral scientists, published a detailed description of the evidence that Dr. Gino’s research for his 2012 paper was falsified. The bloggers contacted Harvard Business School in late 2021 and presented their concerns about Dr. Gino’s work to the university, which included evidence of fraud in the 2012 paper and three other papers she collaborated on. .
The blog – led by Uri Simonson of ESADE Business School in Barcelona, Leif Nelson of the University of California, Berkeley, and Joseph Simon of the University of Pennsylvania – focuses on the integrity and reliability of social science research. The post on Dr. Gino stated that Harvard put her on administrative leave, this fact is reflected on the website of the business school, although not the reason. The Internet Archive, which catalogs websites, shows that Dr. Gino was not on vacation as recently as mid-May.
The 2012 paper is based on three different studies. In one study supervised by Dr. Gino, approximately 100 participants were asked to complete a worksheet containing 20 puzzles and were promised $1 for each puzzle solved.
Study participants filled out a form stating how much money they earned by solving the puzzles. The participants were led to believe that cheating was unknown, when in fact the researchers were able to verify how many puzzles they had solved.
The study indicated that participants were significantly more likely to honestly report their puzzle income; If they check the correctness of their answers not on the form but above the root.
But in their blog post, Dr. Simonson, Dr. Nelson, and Dr. Simons cited a digital record in an Excel file to illustrate some of the data points that Dr. Gino and their colleagues posted online. It was disrupted, and the disruption helped drive the result.
Last week’s post was not the first time that datacollada keepers have taken issue with a 2012 paper by Dr. Gino and her co-authors. In the year In an August 2021 blog post, the same researchers found evidence that another study published in the same paper was based on fabricated data.
That study is based on data provided by insurance companies in which customers report the mileage of cars covered by their policies. According to the study, it was found that customers who were asked to verify the authenticity of the information provided by customers at the top of the form were more trustworthy than customers who were asked to verify their authenticity at the bottom of the form.
But in analyzing the raw data, Dr. Simonson, Dr. Nelson, and Dr. Simons found that many of the data points were generated by someone associated with the study, not based on client data. In the year The journal that published the 2012 paper, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, reported the blog post within a month.
If so, says another co-author of the paper, Dan Ariely, a Duke University scholar who bought the data from the insurance company. Dr. Ariely, one of the world’s leading behavioral scientists, said in an email on Friday that he was “shocked and surprised” to learn that some of the insurance information in the paper was falsified.
Datacolada publishes blog posts suggesting that the results were fabricated on two other articles Dr. Gino co-authored. The bloggers wrote that they plan to publish an additional post detailing the issues in an additional paper she collaborated on.
In interviews and comments on social media, several scholars have said they do not suspect fraud in Dr. Gino’s work. But some have noted that the findings in her specialty genre of behavioral research, closely related to psychology, often resemble findings from questionable research methods.
Colin Kamer, a behavioral economist at the California Institute of Technology, says one questionable method is p-hacking — where, for example, the researcher is trying a series of random combinations of data until he finds an inflated statistical correlation.
In the year In 2015, a group of academics tried to replicate the results of 100 studies published in popular psychology journals and succeeded in less than half of the cases. Behavioral studies have been particularly difficult to replicate.