Last night I was excited to get a moment to read one of the early studies on personal-transformation seminars. The study, called “Characteristics of Participants in a Large Group Awareness Training,” was published in 1990 in the Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology. As I began reading it, every phrase sounded familiar.

Then I picked up a more recently published study that I had read earlier and found out why.

The later study, published in 2005 in a journal of the British Psychological Society, begins with the exact same 85 words. Here’s how both studies start: “Large group awareness trainings (LGATs; e.g. est, Lifespring, and the Forum) were first offered to the American public in the early 1970s at the same time the encounter group movements was declining.” They continue in exactly the same vein for some paragraphs, though occasional words and references to sources are slightly different.

Check out a pdf of the 1990 study and the 2005 study to see with your own eyes.

I sent an email a couple of hours ago to the author of the 2005 piece, psychologist Gidi Rubinstein of Netanya Academic College in Israel. We corresponded earlier this week on the 2005 study, before I had found these similarities, but he hasn’t written back yet today.

I also emailed Roxane Cohen Silver, one of the co-authors of the 1990 article, about the similarities. Once she got over being stunned, she fired off an email to the publishers of the journal Psychology and Psychotherapy: Theory, Research and Practice. Here it is:

To Whom It May Concern:

It has recently been brought to my attention that a 2005 article entitled “Characteristics of participants in the Forum, psychotherapy clients, and control participants: A comparative study”, published by Gidi Rubinstein in “Psychology and Psychotherapy: Theory, Research and Practice” (Vol. 78, 481-492), which I have attached to this email, plagiarized VERBATIM an article that my colleagues and I published in the Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology in 1990.

Our article, “Characteristics of participants in a large group awareness training” (JCCP, 1990, Vol. 58, 99-108), is also attached to this email. You will note that most of the paragraphs in the Introduction are lifted VERBATIM from our article.

I am assuming that a public retraction is in order?

Your thoughts?