Fiction Science

Seating arrangement as in one of Diederik Stapel’s experimental environments

Dr. Thorsten S. Beck

Photographic Collage Illustration




This scene of a seating arrangement illustrates one of the studies that psychologist Diederik Stapel claimed to have carried out. Stapel argues that untidy surroundings triggered racist behavior. His setting was a train station in Utrecht (Netherlands), but he did not adjust his descriptions to the exact specifications of the actual station and got the number of seats wrong that he claimed were part of his experiment.


Stapel was a professor who did real research at some point in his past but eventually started to fabricate data that was more elegant and less messy than real data, and was more pleasing for editors. His fraud unraveled when in 2011 two graduate students voiced their suspicions to the department leadership. Almost 60 of his publications have been retracted by now. He lost both his job and his doctoral degree.




Bhattacharjee, Yudhijit. “The Mind of a Con Man.” The New York Times Magazine, April 26, 2013.


McCook, Alison. “No Academic Post for Fraudster Diederik Stapel, After All.” Retraction Watch, September 13, 2016.


Retraction Watch. “The Retraction Watch Leaderboard.” Accessed August 29, 2018.


Seadle, Michael S. Quantifying Research Integrity. Synthesis Lectures on Information Concepts, Retrieval, and Services 53. San Rafael, California: Morgan & Claypool, 2017.


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