Linguistic Traces of a Scientific Fraud: The Case of Diederik Stapel
David M. Markowitz mail, Jeffrey T. Hancock
Published: August 25, 2014DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0105937
When scientists report false data, does their writing style reflect their deception? In this study, we investigated the linguistic patterns of fraudulent (N = 24; 170,008 words) and genuine publications (N = 25; 189,705 words) first-authored by social psychologist Diederik Stapel. The analysis revealed that Stapel's fraudulent papers contained linguistic changes in science-related discourse dimensions, including more terms pertaining to methods, investigation, and certainty than his genuine papers. His writing style also matched patterns in other deceptive language, including fewer adjectives in fraudulent publications relative to genuine publications. Using differences in language dimensions we were able to classify Stapel's publications with above chance accuracy. Beyond these discourse dimensions, Stapel included fewer co-authors when reporting fake data than genuine data, although other evidentiary claims (e.g., number of references and experiments) did not differ across the two article types. This research supports recent findings that language cues vary systematically with deception, and that deception can be revealed in fraudulent scientific discourse.
Citation: Markowitz DM, Hancock JT (2014) Linguistic Traces of a Scientific Fraud: The Case of Diederik Stapel. PLoS ONE 9(8): e105937. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0105937
Editor: Daniele Fanelli, Université de Montréal, Canada
Received: October 4, 2013; Accepted: July 29, 2014; Published: August 25, 2014
Copyright: © 2014 Markowitz and Hancock. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.
Funding: The authors have no support or funding to report.
Competing interests: The authors have declared that no competing interests exist.
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