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Smart People Use a Condom to Avoid HIV


A psychology journal has retracted a 2020 paper purporting to find that smarter people are more likely to use a condom during sex to avoid HIV.

The new study, by researchers from Singapore and the United States led by Sean Lee of the Singapore Management University School of Social Sciences, appeared in Personality and Individual Differences .

The paper claimed to find that:

consistent condom usage (or lack thereof) has become one of the top concerns of HIV prevention efforts. In this paper, we examine general intelligence, which enables one to cope effectively with evolutionarily novel situations and issues, as a predictor of condom usage in response to the threat of HIV. In Study 1, we found that individuals with higher levels of general intelligence exhibited greater openness to using condoms. In Study 2, we found that individuals with higher levels of general intelligence exhibited greater likelihood of using condoms in a sexual offer scenario—but only when primed with the threat of the evolutionarily novel STI HIV. Implications and future directions are discussed.

But according to the retraction notice:

This article has been retracted at the request of the Editor in Chief of Personality and Individual Differences after concerns were raised with respect to the veracity of the data and analyses. While reanalyzing the dataset, the authors and a reader of the journal identified several errors that were made while computing some of the aggregate variables in this study. These errors impacted the results and conclusions of the article. Thus, in the best interests of science, knowledge creation/dissemination, and publication standards, the Editor has concluded it is necessary to retract the paper. The authors apologize in earnest for these errors.

Catriona Fennell, the director of publishing services for STM Journals at Elsevier, which publishes PAID, told us:

The reader contacted the authors directly and also contacted the Editor in Chief a few days later. The authors responded to both parties five days after first being contacted by the reader. A week later, the authors shared their re-analyzed underlying data, confirmed the errors and described them in detail to the reader and Editor in Chief.

Lee told us:

In June 2020, a reader of the journal wrote to me requesting for the data and codes. While preparing the data and codes, I discovered clerical errors in the aggregation of several scale measures. I then sent the data, codes (corrected and uncorrected), as well as a summary document regarding the errors to both the reader and the Chief Editor. The Chief Editor and I agreed that a retraction is warranted due to the errors.


Reference Check  

We note that the references in the paper include a few from some researchers in psychology with controversial — or worse — views about race and intelligence. The article includes four references to the work of Satoshi Kanazawa, whose Wikipedia page states:

In response to ongoing controversies over his stated views, such as Sub-Saharan Black African countries suffer from chronic poverty and disease because their people have lower IQs, and black women are objectively less attractive than women of other races, he was dismissed from writing for Psychology Today, and his employer, the London School of Economics, prohibited him from publishing in non-peer-reviewed outlets for 12 months.[8] A group of 68 evolutionary psychologists issued an open letter titled “Kanazawa’s bad science does not represent evolutionary psychology” rejecting his views,[9] and an article on the same theme was published by 35 academics in American Psychologist.

It also cites this 2011 paper on IQ and race by Donald Templer and J. Philippe Rushton, who lost a notorious 2012 article in PAID  titled “Do pigmentation and the melanocortin system modulate aggression and sexuality in humans as they do in other animals?

Donald Saklofske, the editor of PAID, told us:

much time is being spent on a paper that the authors agreed to retract because of excessive data and data analyses errors that when corrected, changed the results/conclusions of the study. The string of correspondence I believe started with the reader contacting the author with some concerns about the reported results and requesting access to the data for reanalysis; I was informed of this when the reader did not receive a reply from the senior author. This went back and forth between […] the parties with the authoring team then revisiting the analyses reported in the PAID paper where they discovered a number of mistakes that altered some important conclusions which they forwarded to me. The errors and changes could not be handled in a corrigendum and the authors agreed that a retraction was warranted.

Soklofske demurred on our questions about the references, and suggested we contact the author and/or the concerned reader.

We tried, but the reader chose to remain anonymous, according to Fennell.

This article originally appeared on Retraction Watch.

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