Brand researchers have a second study retracted due to data “anomalies”

Three researchers who study consumers’ relationships with brands have lost their second paper, this one a study which sought to explain why some people buy things to relieve inner conflicts, because of “data and analysis anomalies.”

The study, “Identity Threats, Compensatory Consumption, and Working Memory Capacity: How Feeling Threatened Leads to Heightened Evaluations of Identity-Relevant Products,” was originally published July 6, 2018 in the Journal of Consumer Research, an Oxford University Press title and retracted on July 3, 2020.

The study was authored by Nicole Coleman of the University of Pittsburgh, Patti Williams, of the University of Pennsylvania, and Andrea Morales of Arizona State University.

The retraction notice says:

The authors wish to retract the above-referenced article due to data and analysis anomalies in the studies underpinning the research and because the record of primary data from the studies is incomplete. The article states the second and third co-authors supervised the data collection and the data were analyzed by the first author. All authors have subsequently stated that the data were the sole responsibility of the first author. Ultimately, the editors agree that these anomalies make the findings reported in this article unreliable. The authors and the editors apologize for any problems that the publication of this article may have caused.

This retraction occurred less than a month after the retraction of a different study, in the Journal of the Association for Consumer Research, to which these three authors contributed. In this instance, like the previous one, the first author, Coleman, produced and analyzed data with unexplained irregularities, which led to retraction, according to the other authors.

Since we wrote about the previous retraction, the URL for a podcast episode about the findings from University of Pennsylvania now results in a “404” error.

The three authors also collaborated on two other studies, not counting their previous retraction. And Coleman co-authored two more papers with the second author, Williams. 

Jeff Inman, editor in chief of the Journal of Consumer Research, told Retraction Watch that he could not comment on the specific data anomalies in the most recently retracted study and has recused himself from reviewing the case because he is on faculty at the University of Pittsburgh.

The study’s third author, Morales, wrote to Retraction Watch, copying Williams:

The first author maintained and controlled all the raw data files and conducted all data analyses, as indicated in the retraction statement. “[Supervised] the data collection” referred to the experimental sessions that were conducted at our institutions, following appropriate administrative procedures.

Craig Wilcox, a research integrity officer at the University of Pittsburgh, did not say whether the university was pursuing an investigation, instead sending this statement:

The University of Pittsburgh takes research integrity very seriously.  Our policy, which complies with federal laws and regulations, mandates that the University protect the confidentiality of all involved in investigations of alleged misconduct. Proceedings of our investigations are disclosed only as required by regulation, contractual obligation, or law.

Update, 1930 UTC, 7/22/20: Amna Kirmani, the editor of the Journal of Consumer Research, tells Retraction Watch that another retraction is forthcoming:

The Journal of Consumer Research takes issues of research integrity very seriously. Having reviewed the paper in question in accordance with COPE guidelines, we took a decision to issue a retraction due to some anomalies in the data. One other article will be retracted imminently because of concerns raised by the authors.

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2 thoughts on “Brand researchers have a second study retracted due to data “anomalies””

  1. The earlier retracted paper is in the Journal of the Association for Consumer Research, not in the Journal of Consumer Research (as you say in this article).

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