Harvard’s ‘Leading Scholar’ on ‘Honesty’ Caught Fabricating ‘Multiple Studies’

Harvard’s “leading scholar” on behavioral psychology has been caught fabricating “multiple studies,” including the findings in a famous major study on “honesty.”

“Reverberations” are going through the academic community after evidence emerged showing that Francesca Gino of Harvard Business School fabricated results in “multiple studies,” according to a report from the New York Times.

The report asserts that the field of behavioral science, an area of research often seen with much “skepticism” from other scientists, “may have sustained its most serious blow yet” over the revelations about Gino’s studies.

One of these was a famous study on honesty conducted in 2012.

The results of the study have “been cited hundreds of times by other scholars” since.

Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania behavioral scientist Maurice Schweitzer claimed that the accusations have sent “reverberations in the academic community.”

Dr. Gino has “so many collaborators, so many articles,” and “is really a leading scholar in the field,” Schweitzer notes.

The Times provided background on the prominent researcher, reporting that she’s frequently featured in peer-reviewed journals.

“The scholar, Francesca Gino of Harvard Business School, has been a co-author of dozens of papers in peer-reviewed journals on such topics as how rituals like silently counting to 10 before deciding what to eat can increase the likelihood of choosing healthier food, and how networking can make professionals feel dirty,” the NY Times reports.

As her resumé indicates, Gino has a Ph.D. in economics and management from an Italian university.

The Times mentions that serious questions about her body of work arose earlier this month when an article in The Chronicle of Higher Education claimed a source said that Gino’s 2012 paper had “fabricated results.”

“One of Dr. Gino’s co-authors — Max H. Bazerman, also of Harvard Business School — told The Chronicle that the university had informed him that a study overseen by Dr. Gino for the paper appeared to include fabricated results,” the Times wrote.

The paper’s original finding claims that “asking people who fill out tax or insurance documents to attest to the truth of their responses at the top of the document rather than at the bottom significantly increased the accuracy of the information they provided.”

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The Times further detailed Gino’s 2012 paper, saying “it was based on three separate studies.

“One study overseen by Dr. Gino involved a lab experiment in which about 100 participants were asked to complete a worksheet featuring 20 puzzles and were promised $1 for every puzzle they solved.”

“The study’s participants later filled out a form reporting how much money they had earned from solving the puzzles,” the report adds.

“The participants were led to believe that cheating would be undetected, when in fact the researchers could verify how many puzzles they had solved.”

According to the results, “participants were much more likely to report their puzzle income honestly if they attested to the accuracy of their responses at the top of the form rather than the bottom.”

However, in a blog published this month, three behavioral scientists under the name “DataColada” cataloged evidence of problems with Gino’s study.

Upon analysis of data that Dr. Gino and her co-authors had posted online, the scientists demonstrated that “some of the data points had been tampered with, and that the tampering helped drive the result.”

According to another blog posted by these same researchers in 2021, “another study published in the same paper appeared to rely on manufactured data,” The Times wrote.

The findings of this blog actually prompted the journal that published Gino’s 2012 paper to retract it one month later.

The Times noted that DataColada has “since published blog posts laying out evidence that results were fabricated in two other papers of which Dr. Gino was a co-author,” and added that they intend to publish one more blog on issues with another paper on which she collaborated.

According to the NYT, Dr. Gino did not respond to a request for comment.

A man who identified himself as her husband reportedly responded to the outlet, saying, “It’s obviously something that is very sensitive that we can’t speak to now.”

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By Frank Bergman

Frank Bergman is a political/economic journalist living on the east coast. Aside from news reporting, Bergman also conducts interviews with researchers and material experts and investigates influential individuals and organizations in the sociopolitical world.

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