We’ve written before about how scientists working in psychology may have incentives that lead them to change data to improve results.
A new and humorous paper from Neuroskeptic, a neuroscientist and blogger, that was just published in Perspectives On Psychological Science uses Dante’s 9 Circles Of Hell to describe that particular sin (Circle IV, P-Value fishing) — which means using different statistical tests or changing data until results reach a high level of statistical certainty — in addition to eight other sins researchers commit that reduce the value of their work.
Here’s the illustration of the sins from the paper:
He proposes some novel punishments for each of the sins. In circle I, Limbo, those who sat by and watched these must see the carnage and know they’re partially responsible.
Those in the fifth circle who clean up their data after the fact to improve results have hairs picked out one by one, and are told by demons that “better off without that hair, because there was something wrong with it.”
The 9th circle, inventing data, has perhaps the most fearsome punishment of all:
“Here, Satan himself lies trapped forever in a block of solid ice alongside the worst sinners of all. Frozen in front of their eyes is a paper explaining very convincingly that water cannot freeze in the environmental conditions of this part of Hell. Unfortunately, the data were made up.”
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