Retraction Watch

Tracking retractions as a window into the scientific process

Archive for the ‘psychology’ Category

When the title states the wrong result, a paper gets corrected

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Ever wonder why, on a round-trip, the leg home often feels shorter? A group of researchers found that’s only true in hindsight, as people look back on which leg felt shorter — the trouble is, when the paper first appeared, the title mistakenly stated the opposite was true.

One June 10, PLOS ONE published a paper entitled “The Return Trip Is Felt Longer Only Postdictively: A Psychophysiological Study of the Return Trip Effect”; 17 days later, it was republished under the correct title, “The Return Trip Is Felt Shorter Only Postdictively: A Psychophysiological Study of the Return Trip Effect.”

On July 15, the journal posted a correction notice explaining its mistake:

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Written by Ross Keith

September 21st, 2015 at 11:30 am

Divorce study felled by a coding error gets a second chance

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home_cover (1)A journal has published a corrected version of a widely reported study linking severe illness and divorce rates after it was retracted in July due to a small coding error.

The original, headline-spawning conclusion was that the risk of divorce in a heterosexual marriage increases when the wife falls ill, but not the husband. The revised results — published again in the Journal of Health and Social Behavior, along with lengthy explanations from the authors and editors — are more nuanced: Gender only significantly correlates with divorce rate in the case of heart disease.

The authors’ note, from Iowa State’s Amelia Karraker and Kenzie Latham, at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis, explains that the coding error led them to over-estimate how many marriages ended in divorce:

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Diederik Stapel ups count to 55 retractions

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Diederik Stapel

Dutch social psychologist and well-known fraudster Diederik Stapel is up to 55 retractions. He remains secure in his spot at #4 on our leaderboard.

The “fraudulent” Social Cognition article found, according to its abstract, that the more positively you perceive yourself, the less you need to compare yourself to other people. Conversely, negative thoughts were linked to more comparison to others. As an article in the New York Times points out, where Stapel’s faulty studies often succeeded is in telling us what we want to believe about the world.

Here’s the retraction note for the article:

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Paper on narcissistic CEOs earns big correction

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home_coverIt may not be much of a surprise that narcissistic CEOs of pharmaceutical companies will make bold choices, such as adopting radically new technology. That idea remains true, despite a lengthy correction to a paper that supports it.

The paper, “CEO Narcissism, Audience Engagement, and Organizational Adoption of Technological Discontinuities,” in Administrative Science Quarterly, found support for the following hypothesis:

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“Goodbye…”?: Editor pulls farewell editorial after deeming it “inappropriate”

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3We’ve unearthed a retraction of an editorial titled “Goodbye…”, pulled from Cognition, Technology & Work by its retiring editor after he decided it was “inappropriate.”

The original text is not online. The note in its place reads, in full:

This article has been retracted due to unintended publication.

The author of the editorial is psychologist Erik Hollnagel, based at the University of Southern Denmark, who left the journal after a decade. Interestingly, his own research includes studies of “When Things Go Wrong” (per the title of one of his book chapters), ranging from financial crises to the Fukushima disaster.

The error that led to this reaction seems tiny, in comparison. Hollnagel explains:

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Oregon grad student admits to faking data in four neuroscience papers

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oriweb_logoA graduate student at the University of Oregon in Eugene has admitted to faking data that appeared in four published papers in the field of visual working memory, according to the Office of Research Integrity.

David Anderson’s supervisor at the time was Edward Awh, who has since moved to the University of Chicago.

Anderson told Retraction Watch that the misconduct stemmed from “an error in judgment”:

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“To our horror”: Widely reported study suggesting divorce is more likely when wives fall ill gets axed

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home_coverA widely reported finding that the risk of divorce increases when wives fall ill — but not when men do — is invalid, thanks to a short string of mistaken coding that negates the original conclusions, published in the March issue of the Journal of Health and Social Behavior.

The paper, “In Sickness and in Health? Physical Illness as a Risk Factor for Marital Dissolution in Later Life,” garnered coverage in many news outlets, including The Washington Post, New York magazine’s The Science of Us blog, The Huffington Post, and the UK’s Daily Mail 

But an error in a single line of the coding that analyzed the data means the conclusions in the paper — and all the news stories about those conclusions — are “more nuanced,” according to first author Amelia Karraker, an assistant professor at Iowa State University.

Karraker — who seems to be handling the case quickly and responsibly —  emailed us how she realized the error:

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Psych journal axes study of child molesters

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Journal Of Sexual Aggression

A journal has issued a “notice of redundant publication” for a paper that used virtual reality to understand arousal patterns in child molesters — the result of “an unfortunate sequence of personal events relating to the first author.”

The study, “Using immersive virtual reality and ecological psychology to probe into child molesters’ phenomenology,” was originally published online in 2011 and printed in 2013.

The Journal of Sexual Aggression announced the “notice of redundant publication” after the editors discovered the article contained “content of which much was included in an article published between the first online publication date of the original article and the final publication”. The article shares many of the same co-authors, and has since been retracted.

Patrice Renaud, the first author and a lecturer at the University of Quebec in Outaouais, took responsibility for the additional publications. In an email to Retraction Watch, Renaud said that the issues arose because of a family medical emergency:

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Recursive recursiveness: Retracted Lewandowsky et al conspiracy ideation study republished

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Stephan Lewandowsky

Stephan Lewandowsky

A paper on “the role of conspiracist ideation in climate denial” whose puzzling publication (and retraction) history formed the basis of a series of Retraction Watch posts in 2013 and 2014 is back, as part of a new article in a different journal.

Retraction Watch readers may recall a paper published in 2013 in Frontiers in Psychology. That paper, “Recursive fury: Conspiracist ideation in the blogosphere in response to research on conspiracist ideation,” was an attempt by Stephan Lewandowsky and colleagues to describe the reactions to another controversial Psychological Science paper Lewandowsky had co-authored, “NASA Faked the Moon Landing—Therefore, (Climate) Science Is a Hoax: An Anatomy of the Motivated Rejection of Science.”

The reason we started writing about the Frontiers paper was that it was removed from the journal’s site in March of 2013, for unclear reasons, before being formally retracted a year later with a reference to an investigation that “did not identify any issues with the academic and ethical aspects of the study” but found that “the legal context is insufficiently clear.” Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Ivan Oransky

July 8th, 2015 at 3:00 am

Yet another investigation casts doubt on Förster’s findings; he responds with “outrage”

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Jens Förster

Jens Förster

A new group of experts is suggesting there’s something fishy in the body of work of social psychologist Jens Förster.

The University of Amsterdam, Förster’s former employer, commissioned three statistical experts to examine his publication record, looking for signs that the data are not authentic.

Well, they found some signs:

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Written by Alison McCook

June 3rd, 2015 at 10:05 am