Research of Former UNC-CH Prof Questioned

Jul 19, 2012

A former professor at UNC-Chapel Hill has resigned from the University of Michigan amid allegations he fabricated research while in Chapel Hill.

Dave DeWitt: Lawrence Sanna is a social psychologist. In 2011, he published several papers that showed people who stood in an elevated position were more altruistic. One of his experiments showed that people who rode to the top of an escalator were more likely to give to the Salvation Army than those who rode the escalator to the bottom.

Sanna’s research received a lot of attention, and he eventually moved on to a faculty job at the University of Michigan. But a faculty member at the University of Pennsylvania thought the data looked too perfect. It also seemed odd that Sanna, a tenured professor, was doing the everyday work of gathering data. UNC-Chapel Hill launched a review of Sanna’s research in December.

Citing personnel privacy laws, UNC-Chapel Hill will not release its findings, nor will administrators comment. But Sanna resigned from Michigan and has asked that three of his papers be retracted from the journal Psychological Science.  Sanna did not respond to requests for comment.