Retraction Watch

Tracking retractions as a window into the scientific process

Psychologists take a gamble on using data about risky behavior, and are forced to retract a paper

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When the first sentence of a science paper reads like this, you might think you’re in for quite a ride:

Jumping out of an airplane may seem like a crazy and scary thing to do, but for a skydiver it is a fun and exciting experience.

Unfortunately for the authors of an earlier version of that paper comparing gamblers and skydivers, published in 2011 in the Scandinavian Journal of Psychology, the ride was short-lived, according to a retraction notice just published:

The following article from Scandinavian Journal of Psychology, “A comparison of impulsivity and sensation seeking in pathological gamblers and skydivers“ by Helga Myrseth, Renate Tverå, Susanne Hagatun and Camilla Lindgren, published online on 19th September 2011 in Wiley Online Library (), has been retracted by agreement between the authors, the journal Editor in Chief, Professor Jerker Rönnberg, and Blackwell Publishing Ltd. The retraction has been agreed due to the inclusion of certain data within the published work that has been used without confirming with Dr. Helge Molde that the data could be utilized in the study as it had been used in previous studies.

You might say that Myrseth et al’s gamble didn’t pay off.

We’ve written before about authors who take data without permission, and the stories can get quite complicated, or even ugly. Here’s what Myrseth told us happened here:

There was a disagreement between me and Dr. Molde about the permission to use some of the data that was included in the original publication. I believed I had permission to use the data, but at the final stage of the production of the atricle, I found out that Dr. Molde disagreed. As the disputed data were of no importance for the results and conclusions of this paper, I suggested to remove these data from the paper to solve the dipute. Dr. Molde and the chief editor of Scandinavian Journal of Psychology agreed to this suggestion. A slightly modified versjon of the article were published shortly after the retraction.

Here’s that new version, which notes that:

The Eysenck Impulsivity Scale – Narrow Impulsiveness Subscale and the Arnett Inventory of Sensation Seeking were administered to pathological gamblers (= 29), skydivers (= 93), and a control group (= 43).

The numbers for two of those groups were larger in the now-retracted version:

The Eysenck Impulsivity Scale – Narrow Impulsiveness Subscale and the Arnett Inventory of Sensation Seeking were administered to pathological gamblers (n = 90), skydivers (n = 93), and a control group (n = 66).

Hat tip: Clare Francis

Written by Ivan Oransky

June 4th, 2012 at 9:30 am

  • chirality June 4, 2012 at 9:54 am

    Apparently Dr Molde has had easy access to the pathological gambler community. I bet $20 that if somebody does not give you a permission to use their data, but you use them regardless, the situation can be called ‘a disagreement about the permission” only euphemistically. On the other hand, sometimes inflated egos prevent people from being accommodating.

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