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


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:

This article was republished on June 27, 2015, to correct an error in the title. The title erroneously said “The Return Trip Is Felt Longer” instead of “The Return Trip Is Felt Shorter.” Please download this article again to view the correct version. The originally published, uncorrected article and the republished, corrected article are provided here for reference.

The paper was authored by scientists at Kyoto University and has only been cited by the correction notice, according to Thomson Scientific’s Web of Knowledge.

Michelle Dohm, a senior editor at the journal, said that they published a correction after the authors notified them of the error:

The error in the title of the published article you mention was noted by the authors post-publication. After the authors informed us of the error, PLOS submitted a correction on their behalf and republished the article with the correct title. PLOS apologizes for any confusion that this error may cause for readers.

We’ve contacted the corresponding author Motoki Kouzaki and we’ll update if we hear back.

Hat tip: Hugo Spiers

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5 thoughts on “When the title states the wrong result, a paper gets corrected”

    1. PLOS One copyedits? (Actually, since I have a “PLoS” mug and given their overall logo fetish, I may start referring to it as “PL∘S one” or something.)

      On a pedantic note, SEA–ORD is indeed half an hour shorter than ORD–SEA.

  1. I recall that paper (and title) very well! At the time it was a confusing read as I kept trying to reconcile their data with the title. Unimportantly (and anecdotally) I found their erroneous title more in line with my experiences.

  2. Thanks to retraction watch, a large audience can now enjoy an accidental slip in an obscure paper.
    Reminds me for some reason of a saying of Danish scientist-poet Piet Hein: “you should place some stupidities into your text, then stupid people can enjoy it, too”.

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