Retraction Watch

Tracking retractions as a window into the scientific process

Archive for the ‘psychology’ Category

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 »

“Right to be forgotten” takes down BMJ’s 15-year-old film review

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A subject in a documentary film about the psychology of religious ideation has pushed the BMJ to take down its review of the film, based on a complaint citing a European internet privacy rule.

On July 3, BMJ posted a retraction notice for an article that barely said anything:

This article has been retracted by the journal following a complaint.

The 2002 article is a review of a documentary film entitled “Those Who Are Jesus,” directed by Steven Eastwood, a British filmmaker. The review has been removed from the BMJ site, as well as PubMed.   

BMJ told Retraction Watch that it took down the film review in response to a European citizen exercising his or her “right to be forgotten,” an internet privacy idea that, according to the European Union, ensures:

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Written by Andrew P. Han

August 8th, 2017 at 11:00 am

Publisher won’t retract two papers, despite university’s request

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Jens Förster

Jens Förster, a high-profile social psychologist, has agreed to retract multiple papers following an institutional investigation — but has also fought to keep some papers intact. Recently, one publisher agreed with his appeal, and announced it would not retract two of his papers, despite the recommendation of his former employer.

Last month, the American Psychological Association (APA) announced it would not retract two papers co-authored by Förster, which the University of Amsterdam had recommended for retraction in May, 2015. The APA had followed the university’s advice last year and retracted two other papers, which Förster had agreed to as part of a settlement with the German Society for Psychology (DGPs). But after multiple appeals by Förster and his co-authors, the publisher has decided to retain the papers as part of the scientific record.

Many voices contributed to the discussion about these two papers — in November, 2016, the University of Amsterdam announced it was rejecting the appeal by another co-author on both papers, Nira Liberman, based at Tel Aviv University in Israel. The following month, Tel Aviv University announced that it believed the articles should not be retracted, based on its own internal review.

The APA reviewed the various recommendations, according to last month’s announcement:

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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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Does social psychology really have a retraction problem?

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Armin Günther

That’s the question posed by Armin Günther at the Leibniz Institute for Psychology Information in Germany in a recent presentation. There is some evidence to suggest that psychology overall has a problem — the number of retractions has increased four-fold since 1989, and some believe the literature is plagued with errors. Social psychologist Diederik Stapel is number three on our leaderboard, with 58 retractions.

But does any particular field have more retractions, on average, than others? Günther examines some trends and provides his thoughts on the state of the field. Take a look at his presentation (we recommend switching to full-screen view): Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Alison McCook

January 11th, 2017 at 9:30 am

Psychological society wants end to posting error-finding algorithm results publicly

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dgpA leading psychology research society in Germany has called for the end of PubPeer postings based on a computer program that trawls through psychology papers detecting statistical errors, saying it is needlessly causing reputational damage to researchers.

Last month, we reported on an initiative that aimed to clean up the psychology literature by identifying statistical errors using the algorithm “statcheck.” As a result of the project, PubPeer was set to be flooded with more than 50,000 entries for the study’s sample papers — even when no errors were detected.

On October 20, the German Psychological Society (DGPs) issued a statement criticizing the effort, expressing concern that alleged statistical errors are posted on PubPeer before authors of original studies are contacted. The DGPs also claimed when mistakes that are detected by statcheck and posted on PubPeer turn out to be false positives, it still results in damage to researchers that is “no longer controllable,” as entries on PubPeer cannot be easily removed.

Today, statcheck’s creators, led by Michèle Nuijten — a PhD student at Tilburg University in the Netherlands, who we’ve previously interviewed about statcheck — responded to DGPs’ critcisms, saying that there is value in Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Dalmeet Singh Chawla

October 25th, 2016 at 2:02 pm

Posted in psychology

Here’s why more than 50,000 psychology studies are about to have PubPeer entries

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pubpeerPubPeer will see a surge of more than 50,000 entries for psychology studies in the next few weeks as part of an initiative that aims to identify statistical mistakes in academic literature.

The detection process uses the algorithm “statcheck” — which we’ve covered previously in a guest post by one of its co-developers — to scan just under 700,000 results from the large sample of psychology studies. Although the trends in Hartgerink’s present data are yet to be explored, his previous research suggests that around half of psychology papers have at least one statistical error, and one in eight have mistakes that affect their statistical conclusions. In the current effort, regardless of whether any mistakes are found, the results from the checks are then posted to PubPeer, and authors are alerted through an email.

Till now, the initiative is one of the biggest large-scale post-publication peer review efforts of its kind. Some researchers are, however, concerned about its current process of detecting potential mistakes, particularly the fact that potentially stigmatizing entries are created even if no errors are found. Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Dalmeet Singh Chawla

September 2nd, 2016 at 11:35 am

Heir claims part of review about political scientist is defamatory, journal partially retracts

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European Journal of CommunicationA communications journal has retracted parts of a paper about a famous German political scientist after her great-nephew threatened the journal with legal action, claiming bits of the paper were defamatory.

The European Journal of Communication (EJC) retracted the parts of the paper that reviewed a biography of Elisabeth Noelle-Neumann, published in Germany in 2013. The biography was titled Elisabeth Noelle-Neumann: Demoskopin zwischen NS-Ideologie und Konservatismus;” a Google-translate of that title gives “Elisabeth Noelle-Neumann: pollster between Nazi ideology and conservatism.”

Noelle-Neumann is most well known for her mass communication theory, the “Spiral of Silence,” which refers to the tendency to remain silent on a subject when your view opposes that of the masses. Because parts of the paper are now redacted, it is unclear what statements were potentially defamatory. Read the rest of this entry »

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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Retractions aren’t enough: Why science has bigger problems

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Andrew Gelman

Andrew Gelman

Scientific fraud isn’t what keeps Andrew Gelman, a professor of statistics at Columbia University in New York, up at night. Rather, it’s the sheer number of unreliable studies — uncorrected, unretracted — that have littered the literature. He tells us more, below.

Whatever the vast majority of retractions are, they’re a tiny fraction of the number of papers that are just wrong — by which I mean they present no good empirical evidence for their claims.

I’ve personally had to correct two of my published articles.   Read the rest of this entry »