A new group of experts is suggesting there’s something fishy in the body of work of social psychologist Jens Förster.
The University of Amsterdam, Förster’s former employer, commissioned three statistical experts to examine his publication record, looking for signs that the data are not authentic.
Well, they found some signs:
After conducting an extensive statistical analysis, the experts conclude that many of the experiments described in the articles show an exceptionally linear link. This linearity is not only surprising, but often also too good to be true because it is at odds with the random variation within the experiments.
The authors classify the investigated publications into three categories: publications with strong, unclear or no statistical evidence for low veracity.
Of the investigated articles, eight fall within the first category: strong statistical evidence for low veracity. Three articles fall within the second category and four articles in the last.
For more details, you can read the full report here.
Forster has posted a response to the report on his website, some of which we’ve included here:
I will need some time to process the new report that I saw yesterday afternoon for the first time. Because I was sworn to secrecy with respect to the report and the email I received, I also need to figure out how I can defend myself without referring to the contents.
For now, I would like only to express my outrage at the procedure, by which the present report is published without allowing me time to prepare a response. UvA’s intention is completely unclear to me; I do not even know the names of the members of the commission who decided this.
The university plans to send a copy of the report to the 11 journals that fall within the first two categories — showing “strong” or “unclear” evidence of “low veracity” — along with a request for retraction.
Here are some of the papers in the “strong” category of “low veracity” (the full list is in figure 17.1):
- Förster, J. (2011). Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, 140, 364-389.
- Förster, J. (2010). European Journal of Social Psychology, 40, 524-535.
- Förster, J. (2009). Journal of Experimental Psychology, 138, 88-111.
- Förster, J. and Denzler, M. (2012). Social Psychological and Personality Science, 3: 108-117 (Now retracted.)
- Förster, J., Epstude, K., and Ozelsel, A. (2009). Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 35: 1479-1491
- Förster, J., Liberman, N., and Shapira, O. (2009). Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, 138: 383-399
Förster has been the subject of two inquiries, and has denied charges of data manipulation. He is now at Ruhr-Universität Bochum in Germany. (He also appears to be planning to teach at a workshop about research ethics.)
We’ve contacted the University of Amsterdam for more information, and will let you know if they respond.
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