Paper on “better-than-average effect” retracted for being, well, worse than average

pers soc psych bullPerhaps what Garrison Keillor says about people is also true of scientific papers:

Welcome to Lake Wobegon, where all the women are strong, all the men are good-looking, and all the children are above average.

There’s been another retraction in social psychology, but before you lump it together with the field’s problem children — read: Diederik Stapel — it seems to be an example of researchers coming forward about an honest error.

Here’s the notice for “The Motivated Self: Self-Affirmation and the Better-Than-Average Effect,” originally published last year in Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin:

This article has been retracted from Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin at the request of the lead author, Dr. Guenther, after the authors identified condition coding errors in Study 1A. Corrections resulted in the critical comparison between affirmed and control participants no longer reaching statistical significance.

Guenther, of Creighton University, tells us that the notice tells the tale, namely that “some participants had been incorrectly coded as belonging to one condition when they should have been coded as belonging to the other”

…and when the errors were corrected, there was no longer a significant difference between the experimental and control group. Thankfully the errors were caught before the paper published to an issue, but unfortunately, we were too late for Online First. No other papers are affected by this.

Hat tip: Rolf Degen

3 thoughts on “Paper on “better-than-average effect” retracted for being, well, worse than average”

  1. Will Dr. Guenther write an article with the message that there is no statistically significant difference between affirmed and control participants with regard to the Better-Than-Average Effect? Will Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin publish this article? Would Dr. Guenther have bothered writing the article if the condition coding errors hadn’t been made? Would Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin have accepted such a “negative result” article for publication?

    An interesting “file drawer” case study?

  2. Actually, credit is due to Dr. Guenther for taking his responsibility to correct the error in this manner. We do not know how reviewers would have responded to the manuscript if its first study had not shown a significant outcome. Retraction is only fair for others whose work was rejected for publication in the same journal because their results appeared less impressive than the erroneous paper now being retracted.

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