Retraction Watch

Tracking retractions as a window into the scientific process

Archive for the ‘psychology’ Category

Study that said hate cuts 12 years off gay lives fails to replicate

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A highly cited paper has received a major correction as a result of the ongoing battle over attitudes towards gay people, when a prominent — and polarizing — critic showed it could not be replicated.  

In December 2017, researchers led by Mark Hatzenbuehler of Columbia University corrected the paper, originally published in Social Science & Medicine in February 2014, which showed that gay people who live in areas where people were highly prejudiced against them had a significantly shorter life expectancy. The corrigendum came more than a year after a researcher who has testified against same-sex marriage was unable to replicate the original study.

“Structural stigma and all-cause mortality in sexual minority populations,” has been cited 102 times, according to Clarivate Analytics’ Web of Science, and attracted media coverage when it was published, from outlets such as Reuters and U.S. News & World Report.

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RAND re-releases withdrawn report modelling child mistreatment

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A think tank has re-issued a report on child welfare in the U.S., six months after it pulled the document amidst criticism from dozens of researchers.

The report offered policy recommendations for improving the child welfare system, based on numerical modeling conducted by researchers at the RAND Corporation.

RAND pulled the initial version of the report in June, after researchers — including Richard Barth, dean of the University of Maryland’s school of social work and Emily Putnam-Hornstein, of the University of Southern California — criticized the model for underestimating the rate of maltreatment over a child’s lifetime.

The report, reissued Dec. 11, contains updates detailing how the RAND researchers addressed the criticism. However, Jeanne Ringel, a senior economist at RAND and the study’s lead author, told us: Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Andrew P. Han

December 22nd, 2017 at 8:00 am

University requests 4th retraction for psychologist under fire

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Jens Förster

The University of Amsterdam has requested another retraction for a prominent social psychologist, after reviewing the dissertations he supervised while at the university.

The university made the announcement this week after reviewing the theses supervised by Jens Förster, whose own work has been subject to considerable scrutiny.

The results of this investigation come more than two years after an initial probe into Förster’s work, which found several of his papers likely contained unreliable data; three of these papers have been retracted and four have received expressions of concern. Förster, who recently left his position at Ruhr-Universität Bochum in Germany to start a private psychology practice, has always maintained that he did not manipulate his data. In 2015, he turned down a professorship, citing the toll the investigation had taken. Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Victoria Stern

December 15th, 2017 at 11:14 am

Psychologist under fire leaves university to start private practice

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Jens Förster

Jens Förster, a prominent social psychologist whose work has been subject to much scrutiny, recently left his position at Ruhr-Universität Bochum in Germany to start a private psychology practice.

We’ve verified with the university that Förster no longer works there, but the circumstances of his exit are not entirely clear. 

Förster’s research has faced considerable scrutiny in the past few years. A 2015 report describing an investigation into Förster’s work concluded that several of his papers likely contained unreliable data. Three of those papers have been retracted and four others have received expressions of concern. Förster, however, has denied allegations that he manipulated his data. In 2015, he turned down a prestigious professorship, citing the personal toll the investigation had taken. Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Victoria Stern

December 12th, 2017 at 8:00 am

After losing two video game-violence papers, co-author’s weapons paper is flagged

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Can seeing a weapon increase aggressive thoughts and behaviors?

A meta-analysis on the so-called “weapons effect” has been flagged with an expression of concern by a SAGE journal, after the researchers discovered errors affecting at least one of the main conclusions.

The paper found that the presence of weapons increased people’s aggressiveness, but not feelings of anger. However, the corresponding author, Arlin James Benjamin, who works at University of Arkansas–Fort Smith, told us:

we would urge considerably more caution in interpreting the impact of weapons on behavioral outcomes based on those initial re-analyses.

Last author Brad Bushman, a professor of communication and psychology at the Ohio State University (OSU), was the corresponding author on two now-retracted papers linking video games and violence. Read the rest of this entry »

Boys will be boys: Data error prompts U-turn on study of sex differences in school

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The authors of a 2017 paper on emotional and behavioral gaps between boys and girls have retracted the article after discovering a coding error that completely undermined their conclusions.

The revelation prompted the researchers to republish their findings in the same journal, this time with a title that flips the narrative.

The PsychJournal study, first published in March, looked at self-regulation — loosely defined as the ability to get stuff done and keep a lid on it —  in boys and girls in German elementary schools. Although previous studies had found girls might do better on this front, the authors, from the University of Leipzig and New York University’s Abu Dhabi campus, initially found the opposite:

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Are rich people meaner? While trying to find out, two teams find errors in each other’s work

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Is having money linked to bad behavior?

A high profile paper published in 2012 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) set out to answer that question — and found that yes, the more money people have, the more likely they are to lie, cheat, and steal. And the greedier they are, the worse they behave. But when a more recent paper tried to replicate some of those findings, it couldn’t.

It turns out, both the original paper and the paper that tried to replicate it contained errors. Although neither appear to affect the main conclusions, the authors of the 2016 replication recently issued a correction; the error in the 2012 paper was initially deemed too insignificant to correct, but the journal has decided to revisit the idea of issuing a correction.

A representative of PNAS told us that the replication paper — and reporting by Retraction Watch — is the reason why: Read the rest of this entry »

Second retraction for psychologist reveals clues about culprit behind misconduct

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A social psychologist has retracted a second paper that contains “fabricated or manipulated data.”

The first retraction for William Hart at the University of Alabama — also due to data manipulation — appeared earlier this year. The notice raised some questions over authorship: Hart was the sole author, but he blamed the retraction on a graduate student who supplied the problematic data. The questions continued when Hart’s colleagues posted blogs about the problems that occurred in Hart’s lab, using a pseudonym to describe the student, who apparently admitted to fabricating data.  

The author of one of those blogs, Hart’s colleague Alexa Tullett, told us in March that she was retracting another paper she wrote with Hart and the unnamed graduate student. Recently, she confirmed this latest retraction is that paper.

Looking at the author list of the newest retraction, by process of elimination, we now have a lead on the identity of the graduate student who allegedly took responsibility for the misconduct.

Tullett told us:

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Written by Alison McCook

October 4th, 2017 at 10:57 am

Co-author of now-retracted paper about video games apparently demoted to “lecturer” by uni

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Jodi Whitaker, via University of Arizona

A researcher who co-authored a paper about violent video games that was retracted earlier this year appears to have changed positions, according to her website.

After her PhD was revoked by The Ohio State in August, Jodi Whitaker’s listed position at the University of Arizona changed from “assistant professor” to “lecturer.” The page also has removed the information about her PhD, and lists her highest degree as a master’s degree in social psychology from the University of Michigan.

Whitaker has also removed the retracted paper — which includes the title “Boom, Headshot!” — from her list of publications.

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Written by Alison McCook

October 3rd, 2017 at 11:05 am

Journal adds concern notice to paper by psychologist Jens Förster

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A social psychology journal has added an expression of concern to a paper by prominent social psychologist Jens Förster, whose work has been subject to much scrutiny.

This is the latest in a long-running saga involving Förster. The 2012 paper in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology had been flagged by a 2015 report describing an investigation into Förster’s work, which had concluded the paper likely contained unreliable data. Several other papers that received similar designations in that report have either been retracted or received expressions of concern (EoC).

The (paywalled) notice provides a lengthy explanation for why the journal chose to add an EoC, rather than retract the paper, as the University of Amsterdam had recommended. Here is an excerpt:

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