Upcoming Retraction

Author: Meng Li (meng.li@ucdenver.edu)

This post is about an upcoming retraction of the following article:

Li, M., Sun, Y., & Chen, H. (2019). The decoy effect as a nudge: Boosting hand hygiene with a worse option. Psychological Science30, 139–149. https://doi.org/10.1177/0956797618761374

In Dec 2018, I (Meng Li), along with the second author Yan Sun requested the editor at Psych Science to issue an expression of concern about our article. The reason for our concern was a combination of anomalies in the data (which were brought to our attention by a group of researchers who eventually wrote about these problems in a Data Colada blog) and our inability to recover records of the messages containing the original data files that the factories sent to the third author (Chen), who was the sole point of contact with the factories where the data were collected.

Chen was a master’s student studying with Sun back in 2014, when Studies 1& 2 were conducted, and I was invited to join the project as an outside collaborator. Factory personnel collected data and sent to Chen using the smartphone app WeChat (Chen claims to have lost the record of these Wechat messages from 2014). I received data from Chen in emails (I DO have records of these emails and once I learned about the data issues in summer 2018, have provided them to the editor at Psychological science and the authors of the Data Colada post).

Back then, Sun and I felt that an Expression of Concern would serve the purpose of alerting readers about the potential anomalies of the data, and at the same time, give us the opportunity and time to further investigate the issue. I also wrote a blog about the details of the data collection process, author collaborations, and my thought processes about the potential explanations for the data problems in December 2018: https://openmethods.wordpress.com/2018/12/05/response-to-datacolada/

We have since attempted to contact Chen for more information about the scales used in the factories in Studies 2 & 3. We also explored digital scales on the Chinese market in general for potential tendencies to cause the data anomalies observed in the data. In addition, we appreciate psych science for seeking additional advice from several statistical advisors since the Expression of Concern. As it currently stands, Chen has not provided additional information and we have not found a convincing alternative explanation for the data anomalies. Although we do not have direct proof that the data were tampered with, our faith in the data is substantially reduced. Therefore, we think that it is necessary to retract the paper.