Srully Blotnick Drops Column in Forbes Magazine : Business Psychologist’s Credentials Questioned

Times Staff Writer

Business psychologist Srully Blotnick, the author of several popular books, a columnist for Forbes magazine and an occasional contributor to the Los Angeles Times, has come under intense scrutiny this week following a report questioning his academic credentials and the credibility of his research.

In its Sunday edition, the New York Daily News revealed that several experts in psychology and social research methods considered Blotnick’s work dubious in its nature and detail.

The story also revealed that Blotnick earned his doctorate from an unaccredited correspondence school, Pacific Western University in Los Angeles, which Blotnick confirmed. Blotnick earned a master’s degree in mathematics at Princeton.

On Monday, Forbes issued a one-sentence statement saying, “Srully Blotnick has discontinued his column in Forbes magazine.”


On Tuesday, Viking Penguin, publisher of the hard-cover edition of Blotnick’s “Ambitious Men” and the paperback editions of “Otherwise Engaged” and “The Corporate Steeplechase,” said it was investigating the affair.

In an interview Tuesday, Blotnick called the report in the Daily News “malicious” and defended his research as “unorthodox” but valid. He is discontinuing his column in Forbes, Blotnick said, because he was unwilling to allow the magazine to verify his work by calling his research subjects, to whom he promised confidentiality.

Blotnick, 46, is a much sought-after authority on the psychological effects of ambition and the effect of career on love. Most of his work is based on an extraordinary 29-year research study that has tracked the love lives and careers of about 9,000 people.

One expert quoted by the Daily News, Claremont Graduate School Psychology Professor Barbara A. Gutek, said in an interview Tuesday that she found Blotnick’s research, the questions he asked, the answers he got and the purported number of interviews “unbelievable.”


The Daily News also quoted Eleanor Singer, president of the American Assn. for Public Opinion Research, as saying that: “It’s clear to me that (the study upon which Blotnick’s work is purported to be based) couldn’t have been done.”

Blotnick conceded Tuesday that when he wrote that he had conducted annual interviews with 9,000 people, he actually conducted more like 900 “family interviews,” in which he would ask a family member, say the husband, about the work and love life of all members of his family, his wife, children and parents.

His critics, Blotnick said, “are using a very traditional (research) format. I couldn’t afford to. To cut the cost to approximately 10%,” he did it his way.

Blotnick also said that although only he is only 46, he was able to compile a 29-year study of the same people because he began his research when he was 17 or 18.


John F. Thornton, associate publisher of Facts on File, said Tuesday that his company, which published two of Blotnick’s books, never tried to review Blotnick’s research techniques.

Viking Penguin Executive Editor Gerald Howard said Tuesday that Blotnick “has told us that these (Daily News) claims are not true. We’re not doing anything until we know what’s what.”

Since last November, Blotnick also has published six guest columns in The Times’ Sunday Business section.

“We relied on . . . the fact that he had been a columnist for Forbes for sometime,” said Business Editor Martin Baron. “This has raised enough questions in our minds that we don’t feel it’s appropriate to use him anymore.”