Retraction Watch

Tracking retractions as a window into the scientific process

Archive for the ‘psychology’ Category

After researcher is convicted of sexual assault, journal retracts her co-author’s paper

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A disability journal has retracted a paper supposedly penned by a man with severe disabilities, citing duplication.

Although the reason for the retraction may sound run-of-the-mill, this situation is far from ordinary.

The author, known as DMan Johnson — or simply “D.J.” — has cerebral palsy, and was communicating using a controversial technique called “facilitated communication” with Anna Stubblefield, the former chairwoman of philosophy at Rutgers University. In October 2015, Stubblefield was convicted of sexually assaulting D.J., who has been diagnosed with spastic quadriplegia and severe mental retardationThe following month, she was sentenced to 12 years in prison.

In October 2015, Disability Studies Quarterly issued a statement that it was taking a second look at papers by Stubblefield, but did not specify which ones.

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Group whose findings support video game-violence link loses another paper

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Last July, Joseph Hilgard, a postdoctoral fellow at the Annenberg Public Policy Center at the University of Pennsylvania, saw an article in Gifted Child Quarterly that made him do a double take. Hilgard, who is studying the effects of violent media on aggressive behavior, said the results of the 2016 paper “caused me some alarm.”

The research—led by corresponding author Brad J. Bushman, a professor of communication and psychology at The Ohio State University (OSU)—showed that gifted and non-gifted children’s verbal skills dropped substantially after watching 12 minutes of a violent cartoon. The violent program had a greater impact on the gifted children, temporarily eliminating the pre-video verbal edge they displayed over their non-gifted peers.

To Hilgard, the results suggested that violent media can actually impair learning and performance. But the effect size was huge — so big, Hilgard thought it had to be a mistake. This, plus other questions, prompted Hilgard to contact the authors and the journal. Unfortunately, once he got a look at the data — collected by a co-author in Turkey who became unreachable after the recent coup attempt — the questions didn’t go away. So the journal decided to retract the paper.

Bushman’s body of work has continually supported the idea that violent media increases aggressive behavior, including a controversial 2012 study “Boom, Headshot!” that was retracted earlier this year.

What first struck Hilgard as odd about the 2016 paper was how large the effect of the violent cartoon was: Read the rest of this entry »

Headline-grabbing Science paper questioned by critics

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When zoologists at the University of Oxford published findings in Science last year suggesting ducklings can learn to identify shapes and colors without training (unlike other animals), the news media was entranced.

However, critics of the study have published a pair of papers questioning the findings, saying the data likely stem from chance alone. Still, the critics told us they don’t believe the findings should be retracted.

If a duckling is shown an image, can it pick out another from a set that has the same shape or color?  Antone Martinho III and Alex Kacelnik say yes. In one experiment, 32 out of 47 ducklings preferred pairs of shapes they were originally shown. In the second experiment, 45 out of 66 ducklings preferred the original color. The findings caught the attention of many media outlets, including the New York Times, The Atlantic, and BuzzFeed.

Martinho told us:

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Written by trevorlstokes

March 13th, 2017 at 11:30 am

“Hindsight’s a bitch:” Colleagues dissect painful retraction

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Two blog posts are shining additional light on a recent retraction that included some unanswered questions — namely, the identity of the researcher who admitted to manipulating the results.

To recap: Psychological Science recently announced it was retracting a paper about the relationship between the words you use and your mood after a graduate student tampered with the results. But the sole author — William Hart, an assistant professor at the University of Alabama — was not responsible.

The post raised some questions — for instance, who was the graduate student, and if his or her work was so influential to a paper, why was he/she not listed as an author? Hart declined to identify the student, but two new blogs — including one by one of Hart’s collaborators at the University of Alabama — are providing more details.

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When does animal research become unnecessary and cruel? A paper’s methods give a biologist pause

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Elies Bik

Microbiologist Elies Bik is well-known for applying a close eye to studies, and has spent years anonymously submitting reports on plagiarism and image duplication to journal editors. Last year, she published an analysis of work, with troubling results – that 1 in 25 biomedical papers contains inappropriate duplications in images. She’s never stopped reading papers closely, and recently flagged one on Twitter for concerns about its methodology. Although Bik is not against animal research, she said the treatments rats faced in the paper made her queasy – and didn’t seem justified. She explains her reasoning below.

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Written by Alison McCook

February 28th, 2017 at 11:45 am

“I placed too much faith in underpowered studies:” Nobel Prize winner admits mistakes

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Daniel Kahneman

Although it’s the right thing to do, it’s never easy to admit error — particularly when you’re an extremely high-profile scientist whose work is being dissected publicly. So while it’s not a retraction, we thought this was worth noting: A Nobel Prize-winning researcher has admitted on a blog that he relied on weak studies in a chapter of his bestselling book.

The blog — by Ulrich Schimmack, Moritz Heene, and Kamini Kesavan — critiqued the citations included in a book by Daniel Kahneman, a psychologist whose research has illuminated our understanding of how humans form judgments and make decisions and earned him half of the 2002 Nobel Prize in Economics.

According to the Schimmack et al blog, Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Alison McCook

February 20th, 2017 at 12:35 pm

Does a paywall protect patient privacy?

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A psychoanalyst has retracted an award-winning 2016 paper over concerns that it contained “sensitive” patient information.

On July 15, Judith L. Mitrani, a psychoanalyst based in California, published an article that included “sensitive clinical material” about a patient. Although we do not know what prompted the concerns, on November 21, Mitrani, in agreement with the journal’s editor-in-chief and publisher, retracted the article. The author and editor told us the retraction was meant to prevent non-experts from accessing the paper and to stop other non-Wiley sites from posting it.

The article was published after it had won the journal’s essay contest in 2015.

Here’s the retraction notice for “On Separating One from the Other: Images of a Developing Self,” published in the British Journal of Psychotherapy (BJP):

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Study about words’ effect on mood to be retracted after investigation finds evidence of data manipulation

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A study examining whether the verb tense you use to describe a positive or negative experience influences your current mood will be retracted after a university investigation found the data had been manipulated.

By whom is the question — the notice cites an unnamed graduate student as the source of the manipulation, and says the only author, William Hart, was unaware of what had occurred.

We spoke with Hart, based at the University of Alabama, who declined to identify the student, nor say whether he or she was still working at the university. He did say the experience has been trying:

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“Boom, headshot!” Disputed video game paper retracted

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After a years-long dispute over a 2012 paper which suggested there might be some effects of first-person shooter video games on players, the journal has retracted the paper.

The stated reason in the notice: Some outside researchers spotted irregularities in the data, and contacted the corresponding author’s institution, Ohio State University, in 2015. Since the original data were missing, Communication Research is retracting the paper, with the corresponding author’s okay.

But as our story last month about this years-long dispute reported, there is a bit more to it.  Read the rest of this entry »

“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