Journal retracts 30-year-old paper by controversial psychologist Hans Eysenck

Hans Eysenck

The International Journal of Sport Psychology has retracted a paper by the late — and controversial — psychologist Hans Eysenck, whose work has faced doubts since the early 1990s.

The paper, published in 1990, was one of dozens by Eysenck and Ronald Grossarth-Maticek found to be “unsafe” by King’s College London, but appears to be the first to be retracted.

Here’s the abstract of “Psychological factors as determinants of success in football and boxing: The effects of behaviour therapy”:

Examined the importance of attitudes to achievement and whether such attitudes can be altered for the better by a behavior therapy called autonomy training (ATR). ATR was applied to 5 teams of boxers and 8 teams of soccer players, and the teams’ performance was compared with that of control teams. Questionnaire data suggest that attitudes did in part determine success in soccer and in boxing. It also appears that attitudes were positively changed by ATR. Findings are in accord with principles of modern learning theory and with ideas underlying behavior therapy. The sport inventory is appended.

The retraction notice, posted on the homepage of the journal, says:

The article was retracted due to an internal review of King’s College London. The review committee found a lack of confidence.

Alberto Cei, the journal’s editorial manager, said the retraction notice appears on the journal’s homepage rather than on the paper’s abstract because the journal’s online archives only go back to 2008. “We can publish in the next issue, in the last page, this note,” Cei told Retraction Watch.

The paper has been cited just four times since its publication, according to Clarivate Analytics’ Web of Science.

Eysenck’s biographer, Rod Buchanan, thinks that more than 60 of Eysenck’s papers could end up being retracted once the dust has settled. As we noted in October:

The research has been subject to question for decades, because the findings — including some that “bibliotherapy” could dramatically reduce the risk of dying from cancer — seemed unbelievable.

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