On Ostracism, Forgiveness, Compassion, and Accountabilty


For numerous reasons I am a slow writer. I don’t type. though a nuanced writer I do not naturally dictate into a piece of software like dragon dictate. I’ve never had a secretary. I am a prodigious reader (and have been criticized for reading too much in order to delay writing). I revise multiple times trying to find just the right word, the right tone, the right feeling (This is version 21 of this short piece!). I am interested in so many different things—and therefore easily distracyted from the task at hand (yesterday I was distracted from writing by reflecting on digital doppelnamers!). I have no strong external incentive to write (I am tenured and intrinsically motivated). Are these excuses or reasons?

I am having quite a bit of difficulty writing this piece—and have had that difficulty for the past three years when my identity with my discipline of social psychology became disrupted and unsettled. In my Experimental Social Psychology class the past three years I have been sharing with students a case study of the influential career of European social psychologist Diederik Stapel. May I never be so famous that

  1. my biography is regularly updated in Wikipedia,
  2. my story is featured in the New York Times,
  3. my entire career’s work is evaluated by a Commission,
  4. I’m featured on a TED train special,
  5. and my work is regularly condemned on Retraction Watch.

The past two years I have invited my students to share in writing their reactions to this case study. Before “publishing them” in a blog piece, I was interested in whether Diederik might be interested in seeing them. Thank you, Diederik for replying and sharing some of your experiences over the past three years.

I am left struggling with the questions of at what point is ostracism unwarranted and forgiveness or a variant of compassion warranted. At what point does ostracism degenerate into a witch hunt? How can one both acknowledge and condemn wrong behavior (never forget) and yet not engage in wrong behavior by failing to allow an individual opportunities to show that they have learned from their wrong behavior?

I have much to ruminate about.