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  • Writer's pictureJose Arrieta

On Dostoevsky, Ariely, and Gino

Crime and Punishment has one of my favorite literay mechanisms I have ever read. In the front end,Rodion Raskolnikov the central character was built up to be a potential moral character who made a mistake. Rodion was shown to have good qualities and be an burgeoning scholar. At least a student with great potential.

Fyodor does a great thing setting Rodion for disaster. In the chapters Rodion narrates, he explains his theory that society should let people of greatness have their way. His general example was that if someone like Napoleon killed someone, they should be allowed as they were to be great and thus history should prevent society from prosecuting this killer as this would lead to the greatest good.

As a reader, Rodion sounds kind of clever, clearly stupid but with a naivete that makes one believe that Fyodor values Rodion and wants to help him gets his way. That is where Dostoevsky breaks the mold. He changes narrator and starts to ridicule Rodion, tells you the reader how mid-level Rodion's theory is and how only a lack of critical thinking would see it as valid. I love this twist, it made the story all the more intriguing.

Oh the Hipocresy

Social science as every human system is filled of flawed people. Yet, as the focus of social science is society, it leads to great media. The case of Tania Singer, one of the worlds top empathy and compassion researcher who was sacked from leading at team at Max Planck due to her bullying of her subalterns. Or the case of Dan Hauser, a world renowned economist who studies how we should punish people and is immersed since late 2022 on quite plausible sexual harassment case. Or well, the world leaders in understanding dishonesty who publish fake data repestedly, Francesca Gino and Dan Ariely. Ariely becoming a popular intellectual with TV studios using their books as foundations to comedy shows.

The Ariely Gino Clusterfake story, as DataColada calls it, is ridiculous. Dan and Francesca not only fabricated their data but they even saw themselves as the heroes of the scientific story. In their joint paper The Dark Side of Creativity: Original Thinkers can be More Dishonest (, they give a masterclass in the subtle art of bullshitting.

Just as Rodion, Fran and Dan see themselves as special, they are originals, they are changing the world, they should be allowed to break some rules while the world bends under their whims. As a former colleague of Francesca, world renowned data faker, and early Data Colada ( subject Amy Cuddy would say: Fake it till you become it!

Can can can

Just as Fyodor ridiculed Rodion's logic we should too make fun of Fran and Dan's form of stand up comedy. See for example the title of their paper. The word "can" is hiding a lot of meaning. It is clearly not only a descriptive can, implying correlation evidence, but a normative hope from a pair of data fabricators. They use can as an opportunity, if they can, if they are allowed to be dishonest, they can be more original. Hidden within this logic is the assumption that they are Rodion's Ubermensch and we the minions can only but wait to breath life in reading their work.

Honestly, no one cares if Dan Ariely is smart or not. Social science is the pursuit of understanding the hidden infrastructure and processes that lead to the creating and change of our society. Facts and careful observation is key to this. And while I talk about social science the same is true for any human endeavor. Faking data hurts everyone.

My Story

Amy and Dan annoy me. This is the case because a lifetime ago after I got fired from my PhD in physics, I used TED talks as a way of finding my new way forward. My first behavioral science class was Dan's Coursera course on his work. He was central to my jumping ship to social science and his dishonesty honestly hurts.

From the start the idea that putting ones arms on one's waist or saying one would follow a nonexistent code of ethics would change ones life sounded absurd. But the minuteness of the manipulations intrigued me. If those shit manipulations worked then my ideas ought to work even better. I mean these were ridiculous interventions.

What is craziest is that if one is to look for non-replicable research, the best bet is to look for research that the media loves, research that ends up in TED talks, books, and speeds tracks you into becoming a news pundit. Funny how the media has an eye for vanagloriating the fraudulent, be it Elisabeth Holmes and SBF at Fortune, or Dan's show at NBC

Shame shame shame

So I jumped ship and I am happy here but clearly things are tougher and much better studied than Dan and Amy showed me at the start. And if I am honest, shame on you. I am a minor casualty, but just imagine the people who burnt out or were denied tenure at HBS while Amy and Fran were there, or even worse at Duke after they put their behavioral division under Dan's false stories. The repercussions are real, this is not just harmless sugar coating, careers were delayed or broken from trying to achieve what these people faked.

What now?

After all this blows down, what should change? One avenue I like is the idea of auditing science. Having funding agencies investing a part of their budget in replicating foundational work. Having replication as s threshold in tenure packsges or as part of early doctoral education.

Paper citation follows a power law distribution and only a subset of work is empirical, let's replicate all top thousand mangement papers and see what happens. And by this I mean all, ethnographies and surveys alike. This oysuir can be of great help to prune away the rotten bark from our tree of knowledge. We will all need to read less and keep less crap in our working memory.

The other idea I like is hindering huge papers from coming out. If a paper has seven studies it ought to be three or four 10 page papers not one 60 page booklet. If papers were shorter, replication would be easier and do would be the reviewing process. We would all benefit as the foundations of science would be pruned more closely to the true bark of the tree. I honestly don't see why a 60 page multi study paper ought to exist. Why not fix this?


One thing I find funny from Fran and Dan's paper is that it's true. The dishonest have a larger universe to theorize from. They are not bound to this universe, they can imagine, as in EEAAO people with hot dogs for hands. Honest researchers need to follow empirics and tbe results are boring hands that look like the meat pieces that type this post. And so, in a universe where fakers abound, the equilibrium state would be one in which any original idea would be, most likely, coming from a fake source. Good job Rodion, you little clever schmuck.

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