Fabricated data in research about honesty. You can’t make this stuff up. Or, can you? : Planet Money

Dan Ariely and Francesca Gino are two of the biggest stars in behavioral science. Both have conducted blockbuster research into how to make people more honest, research we've highlighted on Planet Money. The two worked together on a paper about how to "nudge" people to be more honest on things like forms or tax returns. Their trick: move the location where people attest that they have filled in a form honestly from the bottom of the form to the top.But recently, questions have arisen about whether the data Ariely and Gino relied on in their famous paper about honesty were fabricated — whether their research into honesty was itself built on lies. The blog Data Colada went looking for clues in the cells of the studies' Excel spreadsheets, the shapes of their data distributions, and even the fonts that were used. The Hartford, an insurance company that collaborated with Ariely on one implicated study, told NPR this week in a statement that it could confirm that the data it had provided for that study had been altered prior to the research's publication: "It is clear the data was manipulated inappropriately and supplemented by synthesized or fabricated data." Ariely denies that he was responsible for the falsified data. "Getting the data file was the extent of my involvement with the data," he told NPR. Help support Planet Money and get bonus episodes by subscribing to Planet Money+ in Apple Podcasts or at