Memory and eyewitness testimony

24 09 2011

In class Thursday, we discussed memory and social judgment, which led to a discussion of eyewitness testimony in court trials. The blog LiveScience covers some issues around reliability of memory, particularly in the context of eyewitness testimony. Have a look at it here.

Last night’s execution of convicted murderer Troy Davis reportedly sent those convinced of Davis’ innocence into hysterics. One of their concerns — that eyewitness testimony in the case had been recanted — also concerns cognitive scientists.

“This is not the first time a person is pretty much convicted based on eyewitness testimony and circumstantial evidence,” said Jason Chan, assistant professor of psychology at Iowa State University, adding that the number of eyewitnesses who later recanted their testimony was “relatively unusual.”




Familiarity: Liking or contempt?

19 09 2011

PsyBlog covers a good exchange between two research teams about whether familiarity with others induces us to like them more or to dislike them. The literature generally supports the liking side of the debate, and when teaching it, that’s what professors generally emphasize. But this exchange points out how science works: we challenge the status quo and sometimes find surprising results (and suffer the slings and arrows of the establishment). If the results can be replicated and extended, then we learn a whole lot more about behavior.




Daniel Kahneman talk

14 09 2011

We will be talking about some heuristics in Social Psychology, and Mind Hacks linked to this talk by Daniel Kahneman talking at an Edge conference. I have not had time to view it, but I am sure it’s quite interesting.




Official SPSP communiqué on the Diederik Stapel debacle

13 09 2011

The following was issued by the Society for Personality and Social Psychology regarding the academic misconduct I wrote about earlier:

Dear SPSP Colleagues,

As many of you have heard, Diederik Stapel has admitted to data fabrication and has been dismissed from his position at Tilburg University.  Such behavior, although fortunately isolated, is particularly grave for science in general, and social psychology in particular, where we assume and rely on the integrity of our colleagues. In this context we publicly acknowledge the courage of his colleagues who came forward with concerns about Diederik’s potential misconduct.

SPSP will monitor the developments in this case and take appropriate actions as necessary. The Society is closely following the formal investigations that are currently being conducted by Tilburg University and by the Royal Academy of Arts and Sciences of the Netherlands. It is important that we protect the integrity of the science but be careful to not unfairly jeopardize the careers of the many scholars and students who have worked with Diederik by reacting too hastily.We do not yet know the extent to which data were fabricated by Diederik and therefore which papers will need to be retracted.

We appreciate SPSP members’ deep concern about this issue and its broader implications.

On behalf of SPSP,
Todd Heatherton, President




Social psychologist loses his job after admitting academic fraud

7 09 2011

Diederik Stapel, a prolific social psychologist at Tilburg University in the Netherlands, has just been fired from his job after admitting to fabricating data in some of his studies. This is serious scientific misconduct, and just like plagiarism or other academic misconduct by undergraduate or graduate students, it is not tolerated.

What makes it worse is that if he collaborated with anyone on these publications, they have to be included in the retractions, so that damages their reputation and also causes them to lose valuable publication credits, which are the currency of academics.

Details can be found in this article from Science magazine.

The only comfort in this is that at least we walk the walk – when we impress on our students the seriousness of academic misconduct, they can be sure we apply the same high standards to ourselves.