Retraction Watch

Tracking retractions as a window into the scientific process

Archive for the ‘psychology’ Category

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 Three of those papers have been retracted and four others have received expressions of concern.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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Miffed at exclusion from a meta-analysis, researcher writes own “expression of concern”

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On June 10, Psycho-Oncology, a journal that publishes research on the “psychological, social, behavioral, and ethical” side of cancer, received a complaint.

In a letter, Ad Kaptein, a researcher at the Leiden University Medical Centre, in the Netherlands, wrote to say that a review and meta-analysis published by the journal that month hadn’t adequately cited the relevant literature in the field, including seven studies co-authored by Kaptein himself. The authors of the original paper say they had considered citing Kaptein’s work but decided against it, for various reasons.

The journal considered Kaptein’s complaint valid enough to publish his letter. But the letter carries the title “Expression of concern” — a term usually reserved for editorial notices issued by the journal to warn readers about some aspects of an article. But in this case, the author supplied the term, not the journal — yet the letter is tagged as an Expression of Concern on PubMed, giving the impression the paper has received a formal editorial notice.

Journal Co-Editor Maggie Watson told Retraction Watch:

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Written by Andrew P. Han

September 28th, 2017 at 11:10 am

Amid legal battle, psych journal issuing caution about torture paper

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A psychology journal plans to issue an editor’s note about a controversial paper exploring what the author called “the biggest scandal to hit” the American Psychological Association (APA) in years.

The note cautions readers that the subject of the paper, published in the SAGE journal Teaching of Psychology, is part of a pending lawsuit, and that “teachers considering using the article in their classrooms” should watch for developments in the case.   Read the rest of this entry »

Publisher flags paper on same-sex parenting after neo-Nazi group cites it

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A publisher has issued an expression of concern (EoC) about a study that claimed children with same-sex parents were at greater risk of depression and abuse, after posters using statistics from the paper to support a homophobic message appeared in Australia and the US.

On Aug. 21, several news websites reported that these posters were appearing in Melbourne, Australia, citing claims from a 2016 paper published in Depression Research and Treatment, which said that children with same-sex parents are more at risk for depression, abuse, and obesity than children with opposite-sex parents. The poster had also appeared previously in Minneapolis and has been traced to a neo-Nazi group, as reported by HuffPost Australia. Australia is preparing for a national, non-binding, mail-in vote on whether to provide marriage equality for same-sex couples.

The EoC mechanism, which was chosen by the journal’s publisher, Hindawi, is an unusual choice here. The paper’s author, D. Paul Sullins, a sociology professor at The Catholic University of America and the paper’s author, told Retraction Watch that Hindawi contacted him Aug. 21 about the decision. Initially, he told us he didn’t have any “particular objection to it,” but later told us he changed his mind after he read more about COPE’s guidelines for EoCs: Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Andrew P. Han

August 25th, 2017 at 11:53 am