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Beauty ads make women feel bad about themselves : Did 'ashamed ' prof make the whole study up?

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By Noel Young, Correspondent

January 3, 2012 | 3 min read

The topic was important for the advertising business: Do women feel bad about themselves when they see ads for beauty and fashion products?

Diederek Stapel: I feel ashamed

Professor of psychology at Tilburg University Dr Diederik Stapel published a study on the topic - and concluded that women who saw fashion or beauty products in ads had lower self-esteem than women who viewed the same items in a non-advertising setting.

The article from the influential psychologist was published in the University of Chicago Press's Journal of Consumer Research.

Now it's all up in the air. Professor Stapel has, it turns out, falsified research in at least 30 scientific papers. The Washington Post has dubbed him "the Lying Dutchman."

In a blog, Freek Vermeulen, an Associate Professor at the London Business School calls Stapel's fraud " enormous".

"His list of publications was truly impressive, both in terms of the content as well as the prestige of the journals in which it was published: dozens of articles in all the top psychology journals in academia . The problem was, he had made it all up"

Still undetermined, says the American magazine AdAge, is whether the ad study on beauty was also fraudulent until a final report by a committee investigating the matter.

"I have failed as a scientist and researcher," Stapel wrote on the website of the Dutch university. "I feel ashamed for it and have great regret."

Stapel was suspended when doubts emerged about research concluding that eating meat makes people anti-social and selfish.

The fraud is a "tragedy," said Geoffrey Precourt, editor of the Advertising Research Foundation's Journal of Advertising Research. Stapel's paper on meat-eating was "nonsense," Precourt said.

Everything we know about consumer research seems to be contradictory of the findings."

The Tilburg committee stated that to its knowledge "misconduct of this kind by a full professor is unprecedented." It has done "great harm to science and the field of social psychology in particular."

If the panel concludes that Stapel's beauty paper was based on fraudulent research, the publication will retract the article, said Ann McGill, one of the Journal's editors told Ad Age.

In the beauty study, Stapel claimed to have conducted four experiments with 583 female students.

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