Second retraction for psychologist reveals clues about culprit behind misconduct

A social psychologist has retracted a second paper that contains “fabricated or manipulated data.”

The first retraction for William Hart at the University of Alabama — also due to data manipulation — appeared earlier this year. The notice raised some questions over authorship: Hart was the sole author, but he blamed the retraction on a graduate student who supplied the problematic data. The questions continued when Hart’s colleagues posted blogs about the problems that occurred in Hart’s lab, using a pseudonym to describe the student, who apparently admitted to fabricating data.  

The author of one of those blogs, Hart’s colleague Alexa Tullett, told us in March that she was retracting another paper she wrote with Hart and the unnamed graduate student. Recently, she confirmed this latest retraction is that paper.

Looking at the author list of the newest retraction, by process of elimination, we now have a lead on the identity of the graduate student who allegedly took responsibility for the misconduct.

Tullett told us:

Yes, this is the paper I was referring to when I talked to you earlier this year…This is the last retraction on which I am an author. I am not sure if there will be other retractions/corrections involving other authors.

She added:

…the retraction is part of the efforts to clean up the literature that contained the manipulated data.

We’ve contacted Hart, and will update if he responds.

Here’s the brief retraction notice for “Fueling doubt and openness: Experiencing the unconscious, constructed nature of perception induces uncertainty and openness to change:”

The article has been retracted at the request of the Editor-in-Chief, Steven Sloman, following a request by the authors. The reason for the retraction is that the article includes fabricated or manipulated data.

The 2015 paper — published by the journal Cognition — has been cited twice, according to Clarivate Analytics’ Web of Science.

The paper lists four co-authors: Hart, Tullett, Wyley B. Shreves and Zachary Fetterman. Shreves is listed as a member of Hart’s lab; we asked Tullett about Fetterman, and she told us:

Zachary Fetterman was in no way involved in any data manipulation. He is no longer at UA because he graduated. As is stated in the acknowledgments of the paper, Zach was not involved in data collection or analysis.

When asked about the identity of the student who allegedly admitted to misconduct (who, by process of elimination, seems likely to be Shreves), Tullett referred us to UA’s Research Compliance Officer at the University of Alabama, who hasn’t responded to our queries. We emailed Shreves, but haven’t heard back.

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2 thoughts on “Second retraction for psychologist reveals clues about culprit behind misconduct”

  1. This graduate student “began graduate school” in 2010 but is only working on a Master’s, according to the lab’s website. That seems awfully long to do a Master’s?

    And still no explanation why the Hart paper had ZERO acknowledgments of anyone else contributing to the research or writing.

  2. Good to see some deductive thinking. The university investigations I am familiar with seemed to actively avoid that particular skill.

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