Jonah Lehrer’s having a rough summer. A month ago, when the author and journalist was busted, bizarrely, for self-plagiarizing — that is, reusing passages of his own work in newly published articles at the New Yorker’s website – he said “it was a stupid thing to do and incredibly lazy and absolutely wrong.” Editor David Remnick defended his new hire at the time, explaining that this minor journalistic breach wasn’t on the same level as, say, “making things up or appropriating other people’s work.”
On Monday, Tablet magazine published a bombshell on how Lehrer fabricated Bob Dylan quotes in his best-selling book Imagine: How Creativity Works. We’re not talking one or two quotes, either. Lehrer fabricated, modified or took out of context at least seven quotes in the book’s first chapter alone. While Lehrer managed to escape his earlier scandal without any major consequences from his employer, The New Yorker, this was simply too much for Remnick. Lehrer resigned his position as staff writer at the magazine just a few hours after the Tablet story broke and his publisher Houghton-Mifflin halted all sales of the book. As of this writing, the book cannot be found on Amazon.com.
Everyone wants to know: What on Earth was he thinking? The 31-year-old rising star had a lot going for him, and what we know about the psychology of lying suggests that this is precisely what did him in.