Tuesday, October 19, 2021

Psychology researcher accused of faking data sells his research, admits to fraud

A man accused of fabricating personality traits for the purpose of selling psychology tests is recanting the study after funding runs out.

Patrick Nolan, best known for his 1999 book about honesty, “Which Way, Truth or Fiction: Why We Lie, Tell the Truth, and Reread Our Lives,” revealed in a recent article for Psychology Today that he fabricated data that used a single internet discussion group rather than aggregated data on a larger scale.

The study, developed for one of his consulting companies called General Psychology Counseling, used the individuals’ general psychological profiles developed by Dr. Tim Rubino, Nolan’s co-author and an expert in online discussion groups.

Rubino’s personality profile was based on public comments that were parsed by Nolan to not include that the individuals had personal relationships and other non-test-related aspects. The results from the study, namely that men lied about their age and women lied about their intelligence, were used to sell the company’s personality tests to employers as consumer-friendly evaluations.

Nolan explained how the faux statistics and deceited data formed part of his last piece for Psychology Today. He had personally witnessed the inevitable futility of building massive databases to glean larger patterns, claiming, “The logical extrapolation of this concept is very clear: there is not enough truth or commonality among people, so that the thing that causes us to be honest is also the thing that makes us lie or make us sound stupid or flaky or cynical or something.”

The story came out after Neely finally received funding for his lab in May, and with funding running out, he was forced to rescind his phony psych data, but not before Business Insider uncovered key missing elements. The story contained discrepancies in the number of participants and in the number of questions, also alleging that Nolan changed the initial researcher on the project, Vincent Yu, who was subsequently uninvolved.

Nolan, a false prophet in the realm of psych data, wrote in Psychology Today that due to his deceitful ways, he believed himself compromised and had problems trusting people.

“I felt the slightest stigma attached to me, even though that stigma probably didn’t exist,” he wrote. “The flaws I encountered in the Psychometric Society study taught me that the arc of a relationship goes straight to hell and you can’t leave but stay. (Yay revenge porn!) I felt isolated and shamed, and many people who are close to me have lost confidence in me and my abilities.”

His revelation is particularly interesting given an unrelenting focus on fake news in the public sphere, from the proliferation of sites selling political opinion polls on a daily basis to the rise of alternative news outlets.

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