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Tuesday, August 28, 2012 - 06:24 PM

Jonah Lehrer has been in the news a lot recently.

We’ve known Jonah a long time, almost since the beginning of Radiolab. He's been one of our most valuable contributors. And he is, and remains, a close friend.

We take the editorial integrity of our show very seriously. Over the last few weeks, we've carefully reviewed the many stories that Jonah helped us with, and we stand by the truth of all of these stories. And we stand by the work that Jonah has done for us.

That said, we did find a few minor errors. The mistakes have been corrected.

Where a change has been made, you’ll find text on our website explaining the correction. When you hear these stories on the radio or on our website, you’ll be hearing the corrected versions.

As a show, we try our best to be both vivid and true. And we're committed to transparency. And so if we get something wrong, let us know.


Corrected stories:
Sound as Touch
Mischel's Marshmallows
Limits of the Mind
Your Future in a Marshmallow
Cosmic Habituation
Gut Feelings


More in:

Comments [37]

Joani Davidson from Northfield, Vt

I have been disgusted by this situation since first I heard his name mentioned
on one of the programs more than a year ago.I was told it had been mae a while ago
I contacted VPR ---my local NPR station that purchased and airs RADIOLAB---to complain and their response was not reassuring but somehow I believed he would no longer be on the program at all.


Dec. 03 2014 08:15 AM
riley from Los Angeles

did you guys end up using Lehrer again as contributor again?

Jul. 28 2014 09:51 PM
Alan Tower from South Pasadena, CA

I was unaware of this 2 year(?) or so controversy around Jonah Lehrer until today 6/1/14. I am a most fanatical RadioLab follower and of Jad and the remarkable brilliance he brings to it all. So I read the research provided by a series of journalists ranging from Jonah fabricating Dylan quotes to self plagiarism and all the different ways Jonah has played loose with journalistic integrity. I read that his publisher has pulled both Creativity and How we Decide (both on the shelf to right of my desk) and will not sell them anymore to the public.

My question is simple: Jad, why have you not done a show on journalistic integrity and all that that encompasses using your experience with Jonah Lehrer as a jumping off point? When do we get to hear your heart and struggle with this topic as we have with many other topics? It's time.

Jun. 01 2014 05:34 PM
boo from San Francisco

You should not compromise your journalistic standard by justifying plagiarism just because the plagiarist is a friend.

Dec. 27 2013 01:23 PM

I agree with most of the comments here. I really love Radiolab, but I found Jad's defense and trivializing of Jonah's actions truly indefensible.

Oct. 07 2013 02:57 PM
linda from wisconsin

How can you in one breath say we stand by what Mr Lehrer did for you and then say you had to make corrections. While your summaries of the corrections are vague, many of them do not seem to be minor. How much does someone have to make up or "misrepresent" before you deem it to matter? When people listen to shows such as Radiolab and you or your guests present a summary of scientific studies, it is incumbent on you to ACCURATELY represent those studies. anything else is FRAUD. While I can understand that you think of Mr Lehrer as a friend, would a friend lie to you? He was not only making a liar of himself, but of you as well if you did not feel the need to check out what he said. While the drive to be famous can be strong for some people, what kind of person drags other people down with them? NOT a friend in my book. Your reaction to this has made it harder for me to trust what you present as "fact" on Radiolab. Do you just trust one source, or do you even try to verify? the misrepresentations in say the marshmallow study gave a very specific spin to the story and led to conclusions not based on fact. They seemed to be very agenda driven. Bottom line for this longterm fan of Radiolab is that I find my confidence shaken and unless you can come to terms with how serious his lies were (there is no other real word for them) and stop defending his actions, I will always mistrust what you say.

Jun. 15 2013 05:29 PM
Jill from San Francisco from San Francisco

Dear Radio Lab, like most of the writers on this site, I am a fan, a supporter, a cheerleader to others who may not yet know the extraordinary Radio Lab experience. I did not know about the comments above, or your own blog comments last year. However, since last year, when the story about Jonah Lehrer broke, I have been very concerned each time I heard another mention of and comment by Jonah Lehrer on a Radio Lab. If there were updates or verbal footnotes included at the top or bottom of each show, I missed those, too.

The reason I write today is the coverage of Lehrer's book deal, including Slate's investigative piece RE Adam Gopnik, and Joe Nocera's column in the Saturday NYTimes. You, Radio Lab, and I, a SF listener (a KQED and podcast listener) have a deal. You report interesting, fact-based science journalism, and I expend my time and attention (and support for public radio, to the level of my capacity).

Whether you choose the route of This American Life regarding the Mike Daisey debacle, or you announce you will never again rerun a segment featuring Jonah Lehrer, that is up to you.

But what I can tell you is that this whole business raises a crack of doubt. If allowed to continue, that crack will threaten my belief in your integrity and the worthiness of Radio Lab for my continuing attention.

If you are the honorable, trustworthy conveyers of what is true and newsworthy, you will figure this out. But, please, decide now, while I am still in the room. Otherwise, it will be up to me, to decide to stay or go.

Jill, from San Francisco

Jun. 09 2013 02:00 AM
Toni from Italy

Their is nothing tougher than being bamboozled by someone you care about. Perhaps that is why it was difficult for Jad to remain entirely transparent ( having his initial judgement clouded by both his disappointment and simultaneous instinct to protect the very friend that betrayed him). Hasn't this happened to all of Us?It certainly has happened to me. And though I still cannot bring myself to forgive her, I have pangs of guilt for my inability to forgive the friend who betrayed me inexplicably. I am not a scientist, couldn't even complete my Geology labs in college. However, I respect and admire scientists and urge those of you out there that can grasp math and science to also remember that humans, regardless of their titles or ethical responsibilities, are humans. We may have opposable thumbs, but we're we're animals. We make mistakes. All of us. Perhaps we should keep this in mind? Aren't we, after all, disappointed in the show's behavior in the same manner they were in Lehrer? It sucks when you realize the trusty friend you spend so much time with isn't perfect!

Apr. 17 2013 06:53 PM
D from NYC

I'm super confused by you guys, and if you don't explain yourselves I'll never really feel comfortable listening to you again. I'm a scientist, and we sometimes have NPR on in the lab, and sometimes we catch you guys. And then because I thought you were cool I started downloading your podcast. But after hearing about the controversy surrounding Mr. Lehrer, and, more recently, reading this absolutely disgusting post (, I don't even really feel comfortable listening to the narrations during your program--I feel almost queezy, and suspect you guys of being generally fraudulent, as, unfortunately, some people in science are. I was a journalist before I was a researcher, and maybe that informs the extent to which the post I referenced above really bothers me. I just really feel like you guys are tarnished until you can address this with a little more maturity and humility for the benefit of your listenership.

I'm only writing this because I care. And I look forward to the time when I can listen to you guys again without wanting to vomit, because I think you all (including Jonah) have done some awesome things. But right now, the trust--the respect--is gone. Gone. I'll stick to Science Friday and The Moth, thank you very much.

I really hope you will ultimately use this setback to learn and grow, and then share what you've learned with us. Peace, and best wishes.

Mar. 08 2013 07:45 PM


Mar. 07 2013 01:18 AM
rinypa from outside the tristate

The original post ( is jaw-droppingly arrogant, when one considers the number of cases of rising young writers brought to earth by plagiarism in recent years. Jad apparently felt that Jonah couldn't possibly be of that ilk because he was a "friend" who had been on the show 17 times. I wonder if the promise to bring him on "again and again" still holds?

This post is simply truculent.

For me, the big comparison with TAL/Mike Daisey is that TAL, having made Daisey's "reportage" the subject of an entire show, spent an entire show self-examining the mistakes that were made. RadioLab has put nothing on its air about Lehrer, and only this post of six months ago on its blog, despite those 17 shows Jad was so proud of. It is curious, but not unexpected, that a show which does such an amazing job exploring such topics as deception is unable to give the same exacting focus to its own modus operandi.

I would agree with the post that the errors linked to here are minor, with the exception of the marshmallow experiment, since "incorrectly stat[ing] that the kids who performed better on the marshmallow test had higher GPAs in high school and went to better colleges" seems like a pretty serious overstatement of an experiment's predictive abilities.

There is no shame in hitching one's wagon to a rising star, even one who happens later to have been in the habit of making things up. But there is a problem in vociferously defending that person before all the facts are in, then maneuvering around the mess rather than acknowledging it on air. In fact, that is the reason why I'm so late to this party, since I only listen to the show and don't read the blog or media news. But it is interesting to see that the September's fury has been wholly ignored by the show's production team.

So for the refusal to engage in an honest conversation with listeners about an issue of real concern, I'll be stopping my contributions to WNYC (I now live elsewhere and RadioLab is one of two WNYC podcasts I still subscribe to). I will also be writing to the Sloan Foundation and and the NSF to suggest they hold their grantees to account when presenting what is called science journalism... yet is neither.

Great run, RadioLab, but it's your ugly side, not Lehrer's, that I see facing me when the dust has settled.

Feb. 13 2013 02:09 PM

I would like to know it the corrections mentioned above were all to facts that Jonah Lehrer stated on the show, or were the errors introduced to Radio Lab via other sources? If every correction mentioned here was based on bad information that Jonah Lehrer gave to Radiolab, that speaks volumes to Lehrer's integrity as a journalist. Lehrer was brought down by self-plagiarzing and massaging celebrity quotes, lesser sins in my opinion. But if he was personally responsible for every error listed above, then that may be the most damning evidence against him. --full disclosure, I was friends with Lehrer's older brother in Jr High--

Jan. 03 2013 07:59 PM
Matthew Mercier

I teach writing at Hunter College. If a student self-plagerizes, chances are they will either be expelled, or punished severely. I don't think we are wrong to do this. Can somebody to me explain why it's okay for an adult with a career and money and the right friends to self-plagerize?

I will still listen to Radiolab, of course, but always with a grain of salt.

Nov. 06 2012 09:27 AM

Add me to the list of listeners disappointed by the way that Radiolab dealt with this, especially after reading this:

Nov. 03 2012 12:31 PM
Lori from Earth

Interesting contrast to the reaction of Radiolab to that of This American Life to somewhat similar situations. Of the two, the TAL shows far more integrity, honesty and courage. RadioLab does unable to deal with a friend who is a cheat, though I am sure that isn't easy.

Oct. 13 2012 03:03 PM
Sophie from California

Oh come on people grow up. Why do you need an apology from a program that simply unwittingly used the advice of a man who did indeed plagiarize, and unfortunately fabricate some information in places that have nothing to do with the genius show they produce. None of Lehrers science was fabricated, and that was what he ultimately contributed to the show. I owe my understanding of many scientific and philosophical concepts to this show, and some to Lehrer himself. It is not like Jad and Robert plagiarized or fabricated.
Everyone needs to stop acting like children and whining that they need a better apology.

Oct. 02 2012 04:34 AM
rachel aston from california

I think many of these comments are unreasonable. what radiolab posted is perfectly reasonable. they checked jonahs work for them, and wont condemn those specific contributions. just because jonah plagarized once does not mean every single piece of his is, but it requires some critical examing because it is more likely. if radiolab had just mentioned that they condemn plagarism, thatd get their point across. because there should be no tolerance for it. but you also cant destroy jonah and eveything hes touched,. Ill be.tuning in.still and remain a fan.

Sep. 28 2012 01:17 AM

This is severely underwhelming. As you know, most of us are ardent fans of the show and one of the reasons for your impressive growth has been the passion of your listeners and our evangelical approach to Radiolab.

Despite your assurances that you love to hear from us, there is no response to the many heartfelt comments here and that seems to be at least the second time that you've let us all down.

What we need is confirmation that a detailed analysis of all of the contributions has been made, some specifics on what "minor errors" and "mistakes" were found and how they were corrected, and an assurance that you take this seriously and that your listeners, science in general and the truth all come first.

Jonah Lehrer may be your friend and he may be a lovely guy but that has absolutely nothing to do with this: a science show, that inspires people to investigate things, examine the truth, question the simple things and the big things...

Sep. 26 2012 09:38 AM
Marc Eramo

I want to second PJ's idea about a show or segment on the tension between scientists and science pitchmen. I'm a free market kinda guy, but the fact that Lehrer lived in a multi-million dollar home merely writing about the pioneering work of others has got to be galling to scientists who are lacking in hipster chic.

Sep. 24 2012 02:10 PM
kk from work

oh i tried reading all coments, but i couldnt, sorry
anyway, having a small thought here, as respectable to Jonah.
When a writer tries to write,while sitting in silence and paying attention on whats happening in the back if his head, being sure, the writer, that he has focused well in order to percept well and therefore export it on paper.... isnt that self copying? am just kidingly thinkn, i know it is irrelevant due to the issue of Lehrer, but for fckn sake wot a phony-baloney acusings toward the guy.
jonah, you might be covering, but we are waiting your next book ! :)

Sep. 23 2012 01:01 AM
Powe from ny

My respect for the Radiolab franchice has gone from a 9 to a 1.

Sep. 17 2012 04:37 PM
David from Elk Grove from Northern California

It's disappointing to learn that radiolab is not unlike the Bush or Nixon administrations--putting their own interests ahead of the public they ostensibly serve.

Sep. 14 2012 01:11 AM
Peter from Boston

This must have been a devastating blow for Radiolab and especially friends of Jonah Lehrer. I cannot imagine how it would feel for a friend to lie about his work, and have that directly affect the integrity of the work that you've put your life into. It really, really is tragic. To that end, I completely understand Jad's initial blog post defending Jonah. The fact that Jonah didn't tell Jad that he was, in fact, a plagiarist and let Jad write that must have also been very difficult for Jad to deal with.

I have been a huge fan of Radiolab for years. I wasn't even seriously interested in science until I listened to the show for the first time. I trust and respect Jad and Robert, and while I don't think that this situation has been handled as transparently by Radiolab as it could've been (though perhaps there is more yet to be seen), I'm looking forward to many more years of the show.

My heart goes out to Jad and Robert, who've probably lost a close friend and colleague over this, not to mention having to come to grips with all the blowback on them from Jonah's deception.

Sep. 13 2012 02:46 PM
Dallas from Minnesota

I think Radiolab is at an important crossroads.

I am thankful for this show, with a rare curiosity and entertainment value other podcasts and shows seem to lack. It's a motivating factor in why I am a mass communications student.

I do think something needs to be done about this issue though. Personally, I would LOVE and probably donate to RadioLab if you all did a show about the history of manipulated journalism. It would show you can be more active about this issue which spans all mediums, teach your passionate audience and have anyone who wants to apologize to do so on-air.

Sep. 06 2012 10:35 AM

I've been a long time listener of RadioLab, pushing it on anyone i think intellectually interesting from the second day i started listening. You have been the sole reason that i have been donating over six hundred dollars a year to WNYC for years and years now.

I looked the other way when, seemingly in an effort to appear prolific, you started repackaging old shows and reissuing them on iTunes and elsewhere.

I mostly bit my lip when you added 'Shorts' as a frequent substitute for the longer content programs the likes of with which you started out strong.

But this… this tears it.
For scientific and intellectual wholeness, a fundamental principle to which your programs speak and seek, you *Have* to divorce your feelings of friendship from your professional responsibilities here. Your initial public defense, followed by this obscuration cum backpedal belittles both you and your listeners; that you'd continue to act in this manner, for me at least, makes me question the quality of your program content going forward and somewhat rue my minor funding.

Sep. 05 2012 01:22 PM
Canary from New York

"And so if we get something wrong, let us know." Great, now listeners have to be fact-checkers, too?

Radiolab is a SCIENCE show for goodness sakes! Where's the skepticism? Where's the devotion to facts? Where's, oh, I don't know, just your run-of-the-mill ethical standards? I also take Radiolab to task for saying at the end of July that Lehrer was an "explainer" when Krulwich called him a REPORTER back in 2010 ( Don't start back-pedaling now about the relationship.

There are enough men on Radiolab's staff that ONE of them should have the cojones to bring the Lehrer up on a show. Or at least provide a link to the pieces with the corrections. There's a lot of hubris going on here and it's just plain sad that Radiolab is revealing its poor ethics, science and reporting with this arrogant response. Sad.

Sep. 04 2012 05:27 PM

I have to agree with the chorus here. It would be wrong to ignore this issue; this blog post and swapping out edited podcasts is not my idea of tackling it head on. I love listening to this show, I tell other people about it, and I even went to see you guys live. The show is great because it has style and substance. If you compromise on either of those, it loses its appeal.

Why not revisit the topic of deception/cheating? The Mike Daisy follow-up on TAL was more interesting than the first Mike Daisey episode (to me). A segment giving Jonah a chance to apologize and come clean may be a good thing for him (and the show) right now (a whole show would be more than he deserves).

As an aside, the Wired investigation focused on entries they already suspected, with a few random ones thrown in, so it wasn't a representative sample. Still pretty awful stuff, though.

Sep. 04 2012 04:06 PM

In June, when the story first broke, Jad Abumrad wrote in this very same blog, "The notion that Jonah is a 'plagiarist' is beyond ridiculous." Defending a friend is admirable, and, to be fair, at the time the charges concerned only recycling or "self-plagiarism." Still, the defense showed a lack of skepticism. And now that it has been shown that your friend is indeed a plagiarist--not just a plagiarist but also a fabricator of quotes who often plays fast and loose with the science (for exmamplses, see: seems your listeners deserve more than the anemic response above. One might reasonably expect some soul-searching. Perhaps a show on the psychology of frauds and con men is in order? Or a show about the tension between science popularizers and scientists? At the very least, this blog entry should have directed your audience to the "minor errors" you say you found and note how exactly they were corrected. Wouldn't that be more in keeping with the transparency you insist you're committed to? In closing, the mere fact that you would minimize what Jonah did, friend or not, calls into question your journalistic standards.

Sep. 03 2012 06:13 PM

I have been a fan, a bloody evangelist, for Radiolab from about the 3rd episode. I too am saddened that the presumed friendships of one or more Radiolab staff and Mr. Lehrer have apparently muted (and by omission, really trivialized and distorted) major journalistic transgression on Mr. Lehrer's part.

My father was a science writer for almost 40 years, and he strove mightily to get the facts right, and to make sure that his words were his own, not taken, on purpose, or inadvertently, from others.

Considering the analysis published by Slate, where some of the filched paragraphs are virtually identical, Mr. Lehrer deserves to be cast out of the journalistic community and rebuked clearly and unequivocally. The 'Jonah Lehrer has been in the news a lot recently.' opening is absurdly sotto voce.

And, has already been mentioned, the contrast between how this show handled journalistic abuse and how TAL did is stunning. It is even all the more stunning since TAL is about ostensibly true stories, often told very dramatically, and Radiolab purports to be about FACTS.

You guys REALLY need to step up. Either have Lehrer on your show, a la TAL and Daisey (and regardless of what I though of Daqisey's lying, I did admire him for coming on and facing the music - though it took a while to get him to really face it) or do a show on it without Lehrer. Hell, do a show on how ambition seems to morph so easily into outright hubris.

More to the point, learn from Ira Glass et. al.: get a pair, step up, and stop making excuses and minimizing a gross abuse of the public trust.

The link to Slate's devastating analysis of Lehrer's lies:

Sep. 03 2012 12:01 PM
Vine from Minneapolis

I agree with Brandon and Chris. As an avid listener, I too have followed the Lehrer story and was quite surprised by the noticeably shrill defense RadioLab proactively launched in June. Public Radio in general and RadioLab in particular should have offered a more journalistic, even scientific, response. The degree of stridency in that early support further suggested close personal friendships among those involved, which should have been grounds for even more professional rigor at the editorial level in addressing potential problems, not less.

On Friday an analysis at indicated that nearly EVERY piece Jonah has ever written contains examples of plagiarism, dodgy quotes, and factual inaccuracies. Today we learned that WIRED magazine has fired Jonah after discovering yet more egregious examples. This is therefore much more serious issue than RadioLab is acknowledging, and raises questions about whether the methods and standards being used here are to the level that we avid listeners have grown accustomed to and therefore expect.

Public Radio casts itself as a "cut above" other media offerings, as well it should. In addition, RadioLab presents itself as an especially creative premium in that Public Radio media space. Seeing the early strident support of Jonah now ratcheted back to a muted "Jonah has been in the news alot lately" is not an acceptable tack to be taking at this juncture. If a a meaningful relationship with listeners is going to remain true going forward, far more balance and candor is required than has been offered so far.

Sep. 02 2012 10:41 PM
Tara from Pittsburgh, PA

I agree with everything that everyone has said. As time has progressed, more instances of Lehrer's plagiarism have been identified ( Many folks have likened the situation to that of Mike Daisey and "This American Life." After reading more recent articles on Lehrer, I am thinking this situation is far worse; yet, Radiolab seems insistent on distancing themselves from the lies, while still coming to Lehrer's defense. This is unacceptable. After a cursory check through Lehrer's pieces for Radiolab, the "minor errors" that are cited are the same kinds of lies and misattributions that got Lehrer fired from the New Yorker and Wired. Minor errors? I think not.

Much like TAL, Radiolab's fans are dedicated. We listen with delight to each episode and encourage our friends to do the same. We are owed honesty and transparency... instead, we are getting smoke and mirrors. TAL did the right thing in exposing Mike Daisey (even though, as you could hear in Ira Glass's voice, it was really hard). Time for Radiolab to do the same.

Sep. 02 2012 09:48 PM

I agree wholeheartedly with Brandon and Chris. What troubles me the most is that Lehrer's grasp of science has been heavily criticized by scientists, even before this plagiarism scandal, and more so since this news broke (see below links to two examples). I think it is your responsibility, if you want to be taken seriously as a show that cares about science, to acknowledge at least as much. You put your reputation behind him and anointed him an expert, when clearly he deserved no such credence. The integrity of your show is on the line and your reaction so far is disheartening indeed.

Sep. 02 2012 12:48 PM

I want to add my voice to Brandon's, and also Ken's.

In June, no outlet did more to defend Jonah Lehrer than RadioLab. (This is in part because few offered any defense at all). I found RadioLab's defense heartening, however. I wanted to believe in Jonah and the legitimacy of his work, and since I'm a donor and believer in RadioLab, RadioLab's defense was meaningful.

At this point, though, I want to understand if RadioLab rejects Jonah's transgressions as thoroughly as I do, and as thoroughly as This American Life rejected Daisey's. That is, is RadioLab journalism about science, or is it merely story-telling with a scientific gloss? Does RadioLab believe that Jonah meets standards expected from RadioLab's contributors?

RadioLab's blog was the first place I turned after the latest Jonah news broke. I've been checking it occassionally since. I'm happy to finally see the program acknowledge that a favorite son has "been in the news" again. But the response is very concerning.

Sep. 02 2012 12:16 PM
Ken from california

I agree with Brandon. I just read the article slate put out about fact checking jonah lehrer. I love radiolab, and it is one of my favorite shows. But saying "Where a change has been made, you’ll find text on our website explaining the correction." about the issue? Why not just put links to the articles that have been changed? I know you guys are probably friends, but still, this is at it's core a show about demystifying science. And science is about truth. Come on guys.

Sep. 02 2012 01:48 AM
Brandon from Boston

I'm disappointed in Radiolab. I'm a fan and I've really enjoyed the show, but I feel they're being disingenuous. "Jonah Lehrer has been in the news a lot recently" is vague to the point of being evasive when it's being suggested by an apparently fair-minded and thorough investigation (published in Slate but regarding many of Lehrer's posts at Wired) that the guy is at the very least suspect and at worst a regular old liar. I don't hurl these accusations around, but I think that's a reasonable characterization based on what we know.

But what I'm reading here would suggest that some inadvertent mistake has been made, almost by accident. We don't see any mention of Jad's previous claim that calling Lehrer a plagiarist was "beyond ridiculous"; new evidence suggests it's not ridiculous at all. Can you just eat a little crow for us? The above statement rolls over this Lehrer stuff like a speed bump. I mean, if you're going to deny the stuff being said about him, deny it, and if not, own up to just how bad it is. I hate to make comparisons, but the This American Life situation with Mike Daisey was a good example of how my faith in the show was only strengthened by their response to the truth of Daisey's fabrications.

Anyway, I'd like to ask for a moment of silence for all the hard-working science journalists -- perhaps not as photogenic or careerist as Lehrer -- who bust their butt to get it right but have never made it on the show because this guy was taking up space being "the best".

Sep. 02 2012 12:01 AM
Manuel from Germany

@Witek: You can find a list of all episodes with Lehrer here:

Aug. 29 2012 06:08 AM
Witek from Europe

Is there a list of episodes somewhere so we can get a look at what has been corrected? I would like to revisit those stories at some point.

Aug. 29 2012 04:52 AM

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