Retraction of paper on romantic crushes marks second for psychology researcher

via Wikimedia

A psychology researcher who left her tenure track position at Northwestern University in 2018 amid concerns about the integrity of her data has lost a second paper.

Here’s the abstract of the 2018 paper, titled “Romantic crushes increase consumers’ preferences for strong sensory stimuli:” 

What influences consumers’ preferences for strong versus weak sensory stimuli? In this article, we find converging evidence that when the experience of a romantic crush is salient, consumers have an enhanced preference for options that elicit strong sensory stimulation (e.g., loud music, strongly flavored food). We demonstrate this effect across seven studies using a broad array of products and services as stimuli. We further show that these consumers have a heightened motivation to achieve greater sensations from the desired person, but cannot act in a way that directly satisfies this motivation, leading them to be more likely to turn to products and services for the desired sensations. Moreover, we find that the effect is specific to the experience of a romantic crush and cannot be generalized to other interpersonal experiences (e.g., passionate love, stable romantic relationship, unmet sexual desire).

The article, which appeared in the Journal of Consumer Research, has now been retracted — marking the second such retraction for Ping Dong. Dong was the second author; the senior author was Meng Zhang, of the Chinese University of Hong Kong. The first author was Xue (Irene) Huang, a marketing researcher at Nanyang Technological University in Singapore. 

Here’s the retraction notice:  

The first and third authors have requested to retract the above-referenced article due to data and analysis anomalies they discovered across the studies underpinning the research. The editors of the Journal of Consumer Research have been unable to contact the second author. The editors agree that these anomalies make the findings reported in this article unreliable. The two co-authors and the editors apologize for any problems that the publication of this article may have caused.

Dong also has an expression of concern, issued in 2019, for a 2017 paper in the Journal of Consumer Research titled “Witnessing moral violations increases conformity in consumption.” That notice reads:

In 2017, the Journal of Consumer Research published the article “Witnessing Moral Violations Increases Conformity in Consumption,” by Ping Dong and Chen-Bo Zhong: In August 2019, the editors received credible information about problems with data in the article. We alert our readers that, pending the outcome of a full institutional investigation, concerns have been raised about this article.

Another paper by Dong, Zhong and Huang, from 2014, remains unamended. The article claims that: 

Across four studies, we found that people who feel hopeless judge the environment to be darker (Study 1). As a consequence, hopeless people expressed a greater desire for ambient brightness and higher wattage light bulbs (Studies 2 and 3). Study 4 showed the reversal of the effect—being in a dimmer (vs. brighter) room induces greater hopelessness toward the perceived job search prospects. Taken together, these results suggest that hopeless feeling seems to bias people’s perceptual judgment of ambient brightness, which may potentially impact their electricity consumption.

Huang has not responded to a request for comment. We have been unable to find contact information for Dong since she left Northwestern.

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