Saturday, September 14, 2019

Prelude to the latest errata

Now that there have been some relatively new developments regarding research from Qian Zhang's lab, I think the best thing to do is to give you all some context before I proceed. So let's look at some of the blog posts I have composed about the articles that are now being presumably corrected:

A. Let's start out with the most recent and work our way backwards. First, let's travel back to the year 2016. You can easily find this paper, which is noteworthy for being submitted roughly a year or so after its fourth author had passed away.

Tian, J. , Zhang, Q. , Cao, J. and Rodkin, P. (2016). The Short-Term Effect of Online Violent Stimuli on Aggression. Open Journal of Medical Psychology, 5, 35-42. doi: 10.4236/ojmp.2016.52005

See these blog posts:

"And bad mistakes/I've made a few"*: another media violence experiment gone wrong

 Maybe replication is not always a good thing

It Doesn't Add Up: Postscript on Tian, Zhang, Cao, & Rodkin (2016)

A tale of two Stroop tasks

B. Now let's revisit the year 2014. There is one article of note here. I had one post on this article at the time, and had wished I had devoted a bit more time to it. Note that in many of these earlier articles, Zhang goes by Zhang Qian, and for whatever reason, the journal of record recommends citing Qian as the family name. Make of that what you will. Following is the reference.

Tian, J. & Zhang, Q. (2014). Are Boys More Aggressive than Girls after Playing Violent Computer Games Online? An Insight into an Emotional Stroop Task. Psychology, 5, 27-31. doi: 10.4236/psych.2014.51006.

See this blog post:

Funny, but sad

The year 2013 brings us two papers to consider. I only devoted a single blog post to the first article referenced. The second article got referenced twice as I noticed the same oddity when it came to the way the authors were describing the Stroop task and analyzing data based on that task.

C. First we will start here with a basic film violence study.

Zhang, Q. , Zhang, D. & Wang, L. (2013). Is Aggressive Trait Responsible for Violence? Priming Effects of Aggressive Words and Violent Movies. Psychology, 4, 96-100. doi: 10.4236/psych.2013.42013

See this blog post:

About those Stroop task findings (and other assorted oddities)

D. And here is the article in which the authors use the Stroop task in a most remarkably odd way.

Zhang, Q. , Xiong, D. and Tian, J. (2013) Impact of media violence on aggressive attitude for adolescents. Health, 5, 2156-2161. doi: 10.4236/health.2013.512294

See this blog post:

Some more oddness (Zhang, Xiong, & Tian, 2013)

I could probably add some other work for context, as there are some pervasive patterns that show up across studies over the course of this decade. As the authors have begun to rely upon larger data sets, there are some other troubling practices, such as using only a small fraction of a sample to analyze data (something I vehemently oppose as a practice). Whether the articles are published in low-impact journals or high-impact journals is of no importance in one sense: poorly conducted research is poorly conducted research, and if it needs to be corrected, it is up to the authors to do so in as transparent and forthright a manner as possible. That said, as this lab is getting work published in higher impact journals, the potential for incorrectly analyzed data and hence misleading findings to poison the proverbial well increases. That should trouble us all.

I want to end with something I said a few months ago, as it is important to understand where I am coming from as I once more proceed:
Although I don't have evidence that the Zhang lab was involved in any academic misconduct, and I have no intention of making accusations to that effect, I do think that some of the data reporting itself is at best indicative of incompetent reporting. All I can do is speculate, as I am unaware of anyone who has managed to actually look at this lab's data. What I can note is that there is a published record, and that there are a number of errors that appear across those published articles. Given the number of questions I think any reasonable reader of media violence research might have, Zhang and various members of his lab owe it to us to answer those questions and to provide us with the necessary data and protocols to accurately judge what went sideways.
The reason I emphasize this point is because this is really not personal. This is a matter of making sure that those of us at minimum who do study media violence research have accurate evidence at our disposal.

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