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QAA Podcast

Trickle Down Episode 18: Viral Science (Sample)

QAA Podcast
QAA Podcast
Brian Wansink was the Head of the Food and Brand Lab at Cornell University. While there, he did exciting research that suggested eating healthier and encouraging others to eat healthier was as simple as providing subtle hints and nudges towards the preferred behavior.

He’s perhaps most famous for the claim that if you take a larger plate to the buffet, you’ll eat more than if you were to take a small plate.

For a long time he was easily the world’s most prominent voice on food psychology. He published bestselling books. He was constantly interviewed by national media. He even had major influence in the government. He served for two years as the Director of the US Department of Agriculture’s Center for Nutrition Policy.

It’s fair to say that Brian Wasnick affected how millions of people prepared, presented, and ate food.

However, his reputation came crashing down from 2016 through 2018. It was discovered, partly through an accidental confession by Brian Wansink himself, that his papers were frequently based on shaky and perhaps outright fraudulent data analysis.

The scandal was so bad that Cornell determined that Wansink had committed scientific misconduct and removed him from all teaching and research positions.

This is a story about what happens when someone treats science like a business with the goal of gaining the most influence and media coverage, rather than a project of gaining an empirical understanding of the real world.

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Theme by Nick Sena (nicksenamusic.com). Additional music by Pontus Berghe. Editing by Corey Klotz.

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