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Dan Ariely scrutinized for fraud, unauthorized experiment

CM 02/09/2021 1

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Israeli-American academic Dan Ariely has come under scrutiny for fraudulent data and unauthorized experiments.
At the beginning of August, the research blog Data Colada posted an analysis of a paper of which Ariely was one of five authors. 
The paper, published in 2012, reported that “dishonesty can be reduced by asking people to sign a statement of honest intent” at the top of a document rather than the bottom. In 2020, the authors published a follow-up paper that disproves the original claim. The new paper relied on six studies — one an attempt to directly replicate the original study and five that were conceptual replications.

The Data Colada analysis showed that the data in the 2020 paper presented inconsistencies and most likely was fabricated. 
In a statement to Data Colada, Ariely said that while he led the experiment, “the data was collected, entered, merged and anonymized” by the insurance company he had worked with, and he was not involved in handling the data.
There are conflicts, however, between Ariely’s statement and the facts, as was pointed out by Aaron Charleston, a professor at Illinois State University. In a statement that he put on his website, Charleston pointed out that the Excel file where the data was fabricated was created and last edited by Ariely. He also admitted to miscoding a variable, which he could not have done if the insurance company was handling all the data.
 Dan Ariely gives a talk in Tel Aviv (credit: Yael Zur/Wikimedia Commons) Dan Ariely gives a talk in Tel Aviv (credit: Yael Zur/Wikimedia Commons)
This is not the only problem that has arisen regarding Ariely’s work. An experiment of his is being investigated by the MIT ethics committee COUHES because of authorization issues.
In his book, Predictably Irrational, Ariely describes an experiment he did to check the effect price has on the effectiveness of placebo medications. He gave electric shocks to 80 participants and then gave them cheaper or more expensive medications at random, all of which were placebos.
A year after the experiment, Ariely was temporarily suspended and then left MIT.
Hamakom interviewed MIT officials who said that the nature of the experiment raised concerns because it was not submitted for an IRB review by COUHES and did not follow protocol.
MIT also showed Hamakom emails in which Ariely was asked to produce the protocol for the experiment, but he could not.
The experiment finally got belated approval after going through changes, one of which removed Ariely as primary investigator, and he was banned from conducting experiments for a year.


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