Saturday, February 19, 2011

Cartoons and Cryptomnesia

The GuttenPlag Wiki is expanding and now has a large collection of funny collages and cartoons people have contributed.

This simple visualization of the current state of the work shows that there is not much left without a flaw. The table of contents and the appendix (blue) are not considered when the percentages are calculated. Black is for pages with at least one improperly sourced copy; red is for pages with more than one. 

I've just checked a few pages at random. They are, indeed, exceedingly close. Just some minor editing here and there, and not necessarily for the better.

I'm wondering if KTzG thought that this crazy quilt is how we do science. Or if he is perhaps suffering from an advanced version of cryptomnesia. Wikipedia quotes Macrae, C.N., Bodenhasen, G. V. & Calvini, G. (1999). Contexts of cryptomnesia: May the source be with you. Social Cognition, 17, 273–297:
Cryptomnesia is more likely to occur when the ability to properly monitor sources is impaired. For example, people are more likely to falsely claim ideas as their own when they were under high cognitive load at the time they first considered the idea.
Sounds fitting. The saga continues.


  1. Professor Weber-Wulff does an excellent public service here! I can only hope that it gets appreciated more widely at some point (see recent quick poll ...).

    I am teaching at a US university and have been faced with numerous shades of plagiarism since many years. The students here are made aware of this kind of wrongdoing early on (!), and generally try to avoid it. They get better when taught the nuances, good ways to paraphrase, and, of course, how to properly cite. Teaching writing-intensive courses has inadvertently turned me into a plagiarism-hunter, and I wish I could say "I always get them". I think I caught many, after all it is easy to find the copy-and-paste stuff ... in turn one can only shake one's head in disbelief and wonder why smart people (aka KTzG) sometimes do stupid things. Did he really think he wouldn't get caught? The degree of wrongdoing in my eyes is a clear hint that he DID NOT suffer from cryptomnesia, though that will probably be his line of defense, particularly since there appears to be a notion among his academic peers that it "is not so bad, if it wasn't done on purpose" (I should note that US students usually to get an F anyway, whether the plagiarism was done on purpose or not). A look at the Guttenplag wiki and a consideration of past plagiarism and related arguments for the ghostwriting theory suggest that it is much more likely (sorry: scientist here) he did use a ghostwriter. The only other alternative IMHO is that he was plain stupid to think he would get away with it. My experience is that there is a subsection of students who indeed think that ... and those are not always dumb students. Guttenberg's public statement was very strange though. Most of the students who get presented with the facts quickly confess, so his denial is either politically calculated (since the Bayreuth University discussion will not be public), or he indeed suffers from some rare memory bias. In any case, like seemingly the majority of the German public, Guttenberg displays a profound lack of sense of wrongdoing. ... which is why this blog is important (is there one in German?). So Dear Reader: Spread the word!

    Like another commenter on this blog, I am concerned about our (academic and public) reputation as academics at this point. Unless the University of Bayreuth rescinds his title "without parole", it will not only become harder to defend repercussions for plagiarising students, but to maintain a strong reputation for science "made in Germany" in general.

  2. Thank you for your comments! A current joke is: Do you have a proper doctorate, or did you get it from the University of Bayreuth.

  3. The cryptomnesia defence would be absurd.

    It is one thing to be deceived as to the origin of some idea coming to one's mind. However, is it really plausible that one does not remember the true origin of the idea yet still does remember it in its original wording, word by word, for sentences, paragraphs, even pages at a time? With typos and all?

    There can be no reasonable doubt that this is a case of intentional, wholesale, out-and-out plagiarism. A textbook example, a model case if there ever was one.

  4. Now that I've seen the OCR errors, I am convinced that there are no excuses. Either a ghostwriter did this, or he scanned in in himself, not realizing that errors like this occur. Either way, the doctorate should be rescinded.

    I agree with the textbook example, and will try to obtain a copy for instructional purposes.