Study On Honesty Was Based On Fake Data, Researchers Say

by : Hannah Smith on : 21 Aug 2021 15:42
Study On Honesty Was Based On Fake Data, Researchers SayPA/Yael Zur, for Tel Aviv University Alumni Organization (CC-BY-4.0)

A groundbreaking study on dishonesty is set to be retracted almost a decade on from its publication, after it was discovered that data used in the paper was fraudulent.

A group of researchers have said that one of the main experiments cited in the study was faked ‘beyond any shadow of a doubt’, raising questions as to the involvement of one of the study’s lead researchers.


The initial 2012 study shot to fame after its findings showed that people were less likely to lie if they signed an honesty declaration at the beginning of a form, rather than at the end. It’s since been cited more than 400 times in academic research, and was even the basis for policies tested by government agencies.

A man taking a lie detector test (PA Images)PA Images

Now, the lead researchers involved in the study have all come forward to say they agree with the conclusions of a group of academics who blew the whistle on the fake data earlier this week, and have asked the journal in which it was published to retract the paper.

There’s still a mystery over how and why the data was faked, and with four of the paper’s five authors saying they had no involvement in collecting the data, questions are now being asked of the one who did.

Dan Ariely (TED/YouTube)TED/YouTube

According to Buzzfeed News, Dan Ariely, a psychologist and behaviour economist, was the sole author who interacted with the company that conducted the study and provided the data. Ariely himself benefitted hugely from the impact of the study, going on to give several TED Talks and publishing a New York Times bestselling book on the subject of honesty.

Ariely denied being involved in the fake experiment, telling Buzzfeed, ‘I can see why it would be tempting to jump to that conclusion, but I didn’t. If I knew that the data was fraudulent, I would have never posted it.’

But despite his insistence that he had nothing to do with it, the relevations about the study have many people asking whether one of the leading voices on dishonesty can actually be trusted himself.


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Hannah Smith

Hannah Smith is a London-based journalist at UNILAD. After studying History at UCL she worked for print publications on both sides of the pond, including spells at Harper's Magazine and The Times, before graduating with an MA in Newspaper Journalism from City, University of London.

Topics: Science, Now


Buzzfeed News
  1. Buzzfeed News

    A Big Study About Honesty Turns Out To Be Based On Fake Data