Free plagiarism checker finds more Jonah Lehrer journalistic misdeeds

Letter to Romenesko

From JUSTIN MEGAHAN: Last night I was wondering if a basic free plagiarism checker that is used by high school teachers to check their students work — The Plagiarism Checker — would find the plagiarized excerpts from Jonah Lehrer’s “The Psychology of Nakedness.”

Jonah Lehrer

I was actually a little surprised when it found it quite easily. Spitting out a google search where the Live Science article is the second result, right underneath Lehrer’s Wired piece.

So I wondered if I could turn up more instances of recycled content in Lehrer’s work with the same simple tool. It turns out I could. Quite easily actually.

The most egregious that I found, which from my searching I believe has not yet been reported, is a string of paragraphs from a January 2, 2009 article in the Boston Globe titled How the city hurts your brain” which were used almost word for word in Lehrer’s May 25th, 2012 WSJ article “Mom Was Right: Go Outside.”

A side-by-side comparison, along with my tweets throughout the process, can be found on my Twitter.

I sent an email to both the Boston Globe and the WSJ bringing the recycling to their attention.

I also found an instance where I believe Lehrer recycled content 3 times. First in a July 28, 2010 Wired magazine article “Under Pressure: The Search for a Stress Vaccine,” then in an August 8, 2011 Wired blog post “Are Your Co-Workers Killing You?” and finally in the June 8, 2012 WSJ article “It’s Good to be the Top Banana.”

I’m still looking over the three articles to find the extent of recycled material, but just search each article for the phrase “They work longer hours and have more responsibilities” to find the recycled section that tipped me off.

P.S. I also put up another graphic on Twitter from three other articles. You’re welcome to use that as well.

* Wired severs its relationship with Jonah Lehrer (
* The June 19 post that got journalists to start examining Lehrer’s work