Laurie Taylor Column

May 18, 2007

"A new body, the UK Research Integrity Office, will accept evidence of research malpractice" - The Times Higher, May 11.

Dear Research Integrity Office

I'd like to complain about my former colleague, Doctor Ivan Pavlov. Quite frankly, I think there was something a bit fishy about his dog experiments.

If you've read the research, you'll remember that the dog started salivating to the bell after it had been associated with the food. But on at least three occasions I saw Doctor Pavlov standing in front of the dog making rude faces when the bell was rung, so that the dog in the harness was really salivating because it wanted to attack and possibly eat Doctor Pavlov rather than because it was classically conditioned.

What do you think about this?

Dear Research Integrity Office

I think you should know about a certain Doctor Kohler who has been doing experiments on problem-solving in animals.

He claims that his chimpanzee, Sultan, managed to reach a piece of fruit outside his cage by using the small stick that had been provided to pull a longer stick outside the cage towards him and then using the longer stick to get the fruit. He said this was an example of Gestalt, but my friend, Janet, says that she saw Doctor Kohler helping Sultan by repeatedly pointing towards the big stick and shouting: "Go for the big stick."

I look forward to your investigation.

Dear Research Integrity Office

I thought I ought to mention something a friend of my Dad's told me the other day.

He said that he was in an experiment with a person called Stanley Milgram who got people to give other people electric shocks if they got the answer to a problem wrong. And these people who were giving the shocks were prepared to go on giving them even though they could hear the people who were being shocked screaming with pain.

But my Dad's friend said he heard someone in the laboratory saying: "It's only old Stanley playing another of his daft tricks. Give them the full works or we'll have to come back and do it all again tomorrow."

I await your reply.

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