Retraction Watch

Tracking retractions as a window into the scientific process

Archive for the ‘psychology’ Category

“My time and energy were stolen:” Peer reviewer reacts to retraction

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Martha Alibali

When a former Stanford psychology researcher lost her fifth paper last year due to unreliable results, one researcher took particular notice: Martha Alibali at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Why? She had reviewed the 2006 paper, and took to social media to express her dismay at the result of the time and effort she spent on the research. We spoke with Alibali further about her reactions to the news.

Retraction Watch: You reviewed the paper more than 10 years ago. Can you recall what you thought about it? In retrospect, were there any red flags or doubts you had about the findings that you wish you’d caught?

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Written by Alison McCook

January 3rd, 2017 at 9:30 am

Dispute over shooter video games may kill recent paper

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Can playing first-person shooter video games train players to become better marksmen?

A 2012 paper — titled “Boom, Headshot!” — presented evidence to suggest that was, in fact, true. But after enduring heavy fire from critics (one of whom has long argued video games have little lasting impact on users), the authors are planning to retract the paper, citing some irregularities with the data. Although the journal has apparently agreed to publish a revised version of the paper, last year the researchers’ institution decided to launch a misconduct investigation against one of the two co-authors.

Brad Bushman, a professor of communication and psychology at the Ohio State University, headed the research along with then-postdoc Jodi Whitaker, now an assistant professor at the University of Arizona.

According to a recent email from the editor of Communication Research to two critics of the paper, the retraction notice will look something like this:  Read the rest of this entry »

Written by trevorlstokes

December 9th, 2016 at 9:30 am

Former Stanford researcher up to 5 retractions for unreliable data

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journal-of-memory-and-languageA psychology researcher formerly based at Stanford University has logged her fifth retraction due to unreliable results.

According to the notice in the Journal of Memory and Language, Sandra Lozano takes full responsibility for the retraction.

Apparently, the retraction has been in the works for eight years — and in that time, journals have retracted four other papers co-authored by Lozano.

A Stanford spokesperson told us: Read the rest of this entry »

Journal pulls plug on paper that predicts person’s death, against authors’ objections

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frontier-in-human-neuroscienceSome people can look at an old photograph of a person — say, of your grandmother in elementary school — and tell whether the person is today alive or dead, according to a paper published last spring.

If that sounds too weird to be true…well, it might be. The journal editors have retracted the paper for not having enough evidence to back up its claims, despite the authors’ objections.

Here’s the retraction notice for “Prediction of Mortality Based on Facial Characteristics,” published in Frontiers in Human Neuroscience:

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Journals flag two papers by psychologist Jens Förster

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forster-j-a1Journals have flagged two papers by prominent social psychologist Jens Förster — whose work has been subject to much scrutiny — over concerns regarding the validity of the data. 

Förster already has three retractions, following an investigation by his former employer, the University of Amsterdam (UvA) in the Netherlands. In 2014, we reported on the first retraction for Förster for one of three studies with odd patterns that were flagged by the UvA investigation, a 2012 paper in Social Psychological and Personality Science; subsequently, the Netherlands Board on Research Integrity concluded that data had been manipulatedThree statistical experts from the UvA then carried out a more in-depth analysis of 24 publications by Förster, and found eight to have “strong evidence for low scientific veracity.”

Last year, Förster agreed to retract two more papers as part of a deal with the German Society for Psychology (DGPs); those retractions appeared earlier this year. All three papers that Förster has lost until now are from the “strong evidence for low scientific veracity” category. Recently, two more of Förster’s papers from the same category were flagged with notices, but not retracted.

One “statement of institutional concern,” issued by Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, reads:
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Oh, well — “love hormone” doesn’t reduce psychiatric symptoms, say researchers in request to retract

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psychiatry-research

It turns out, snorting the so-called “love hormone” may not help reduce psychiatric symptoms such as depression and anxiety.

At least, that’s the conclusion the authors of a 2015 meta-analysis, which initially found intranasal doses of oxytocin could reduce psychiatric symptoms, have now reached. After a pair of graduate students pointed out flaws in the paper, the authors realized they’d made some significant errors, and oxytocin shows no more benefit than placebo.

First author Stefan Hofmann from Boston University in Massachusetts explains further in a lengthy letter he sent to Psychiatry Research, which he passed on to us: Read the rest of this entry »

Is the bulk of fMRI data questionable?

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Anders Eklund

Anders Eklund, via Linköping University

Last week, a study brought into question years of research conducted using the neuroimaging technique functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI). The new paper, published in PNAS, particularly raised eyebrows for suggesting that the rates of false positives in studies using fMRI could be up to 70%, which may affect many of the approximately 40,000 studies in academic literature that have so far used the technique. We spoke to the Anders Eklund, from Linköping University in Sweden, who was the first author of the study. Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Dalmeet Singh Chawla

July 12th, 2016 at 9:30 am

JAMA authors retract (and replace) paper about moves and kids’ mental health

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JAMAJAMA authors have retracted — and replaced — a 2014 paper about the mental health effects of household moves on kids, after they found errors while completing an additional analysis.

The original paper concluded that in “families who moved out of high-poverty neighborhoods, boys experienced an increase and girls a decrease in rates of depression and conduct disorder,” according to a press release issued by the journal along with the paper (which also got some press attention from Reuters). But part of that conclusion is wrong.

The authors write in a notice for “Associations of Housing Mobility Interventions for Children in High-Poverty Neighborhoods With Subsequent Mental Disorders During Adolescence” that:

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Conservative political beliefs not linked to psychotic traits, as study claimed

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American Journal of Political Science

Researchers have fixed a number of papers after mistakenly reporting that people who hold conservative political beliefs are more likely to exhibit traits associated with psychoticism, such as authoritarianism and tough-mindedness.

As one of the notices specifies, now it appears that liberal political beliefs are linked with psychoticism. That paper also swapped ideologies when reporting on people higher in neuroticism and social desirability (falsely claiming that you have socially desirable qualities); the original paper said those traits are linked with liberal beliefs, but they are more common among people with conservative values.

We’re not clear how much the corrections should inform our thinking about politics and personality traits, however, because it’s not clear from the paper how strongly those two are linked. The authors claim that the strength of the links are not important, as they do not affect the main conclusions of the papers — although some personality traits appear to correlate with political beliefs, one doesn’t cause the other, nor vice versa.

In total, three papers have been corrected by authors, and a correction has been submitted on one more.

We’ll start with an erratum that explains the backstory of the error in detail. It appears on “Correlation not Causation: The Relationship between Personality Traits and Political Ideologies,” published by the American Journal of Political Science: Read the rest of this entry »

PLOS ONE republishes removed chronic fatigue syndrome data

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PLOS OnePLOS ONE has republished data that were abruptly removed two weeks ago after the authors expressed concerns they did not have permission to release them.

The dataset — de-identified information from people with chronic fatigue syndrome — was removed May 18, noting it was “published in error.” But this week, the journal republished the dataset, saying the authors’ university had been consulted, and the dataset could be released.

This paper has drawn scrutiny for its similarities to a controversial “PACE” trial of chronic fatigue syndrome.

Here’s the second correction notice for “Therapist Effects and the Impact of Early Therapeutic Alliance on Symptomatic Outcome in Chronic Fatigue Syndrome,” released June 1:

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Written by Alison McCook

June 3rd, 2016 at 11:30 am