Article retracted, but the message lives on
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The retraction of an original article aims to ensure that readers are alerted to the fact that the findings are not trustworthy. However, the present research suggests that individuals still believe in the findings of an article even though they were later told that the data were fabricated and that the article was retracted. Participants in a debriefing condition and a no-debriefing condition learned about the scientific finding of an empirical article, whereas participants in a control condition did not. Afterward, participants in the debriefing condition were told that the article had been retracted because of fabricated data. Results showed that participants in the debriefing condition were less likely to believe in the findings than participants in the no-debriefing condition but were more likely to believe in the findings than participants in the control condition, suggesting that individuals do adjust their beliefs in the perceived truth of a scientific finding after debriefing—but insufficiently. Mediational analyses revealed that the availability of generated causal arguments underlies belief perseverance. These results suggest that a retraction note of an empirical article in a scientific journal is not sufficient to ensure that readers of the original article no longer believe in the article’s conclusions.
KeywordsResearch fraud Retraction Belief perseverance
I am grateful to Barbara Bökamp and Jack Hollingdale for their help in conducting this research.
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