Sentencing social psychology: Scientific deviance and the diffusion of statistical rules

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This article investigates the inquiries and sanctions that followed accusations of fraud directed toward Dutch social psychologist Diederik Stapel in the early 2010s. Relying on the public reports published by the investigative committees, as well as on interviews conducted with committee members and Stapel’s former students and collaborators, we propose to analyze how this case facilitated the diffusion, in social psychology, of statistical rules that were hitherto unenforced in this field. The Stapel case thus illustrates the regulative role played by statistics in the contemporary scientific field while also demonstrating the appeal of legal modes of dealing with misconduct when it comes to the treatment of scientific deviance. More generally, this article shows how the study of scientific deviance can serve to bring to light symbolic hierarchies that are habitually kept tacit, thus serving as a magnifying glass for the scientific field’s inner processes.

This content has been updated on 29 September 2022 at 14 h 02 min.