Affirmative citation bias in scientific myth debunking: A three-in-one case study

Autoři: Kåre Letrud aff001;  Sigbjørn Hernes aff002
Působiště autorů: Inland School of Business and Social Sciences, Inland Norway University of Applied Sciences, Lillehammer, Norway aff001;  Lillehammer Campus Library, Inland Norway University of Applied Sciences, Lillehammer, Norway aff002
Vyšlo v časopise: PLoS ONE 14(9)
Kategorie: Research Article
doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0222213


Several uncorroborated, false, or misinterpreted conceptions have for years been widely distributed in academic publications, thus becoming scientific myths. How can such misconceptions persist and proliferate within the inimical environment of academic criticism? Examining 613 articles we demonstrate that the reception of three myth-exposing publications is skewed by an ‘affirmative citation bias’: The vast majority of articles citing the critical article will affirm the idea criticized. 468 affirmed the myth, 105 were neutral, while 40 took a negative stance. Once misconceptions proliferate wide and long enough, criticizing them not only becomes increasingly difficult, efforts may even contribute to the continued spreading of the myths.

Klíčová slova:

Research and analysis methods – Research assessment – Citation analysis – Peer review – Database and informatics methods – Database searching – Biology and life sciences – Neuroscience – Cognitive science – Cognitive psychology – Learning – Learning and memory – Psychology – Addiction – Behavioral addiction – Social sciences – Sociology – Communications – Mass media – Encyclopedias – Medicine and health sciences – Pharmacology – Drugs – Analgesics – Opioids – Pain management


1. Leung PTM, Macdonald EM, Stanbrook MB, Dhalla IA, Juurlink DN. A 1980 Letter on the Risk of Opioid Addiction. The New England Journal of Medicine. 2017;376:2194–5. doi: 10.1056/NEJMc1700150 28564561

2. Worobey M, Watts TD, McKay RA, Suchard MA, Granade T, Teuwen DE, et al. 1970s and ‘Patient 0’ HIV-1 genomes illuminate early HIV/AIDS history in North America. Nature. 2016;539(7627):98–101. doi: 10.1038/nature19827 27783600

3. Teigen KH. Yerkes-Dodson: A Law for all Seasons. Theory & Psychology. 1994;4(4):525–47. doi: 10.1177/0959354394044004

4. Corbett M. From law to folklore: work stress and the Yerkes-Dodson Law. Journal of Managerial Psychology. 2015;30(6):741–52. doi: 10.1108/JMP-03-2013-0085

5. Keijzer F. The Sphex story: How the cognitive sciences kept repeating an old and questionable anecdote. Philosophical Psychology. 2013;26(4):502–19. doi: 10.1080/09515089.2012.690177

6. Kirschner P. Stop propagating the learning styles myth. Computers & Education. 2017;106:166–71. doi: 10.1016/j.compedu.2016.12.006

7. Cedar R, Willingham DT. The Myth of Learning Styles. Change: The Magazine of Higher Learning. 2010:32–5.

8. Letrud K, Hernes S. The diffusion of the learning pyramid myths in academia: an exploratory study. Journal of Curriculum Studies. 2016;48(3):291–302. doi: 10.1080/00220272.2015.1088063

9. Letrud K, Hernes S. Excavating the origin of the learning pyramid myth. Cogent Education [Internet]. 2018; 5(1).

10. Kompier MA. The “Hawthorne effect” is a myth, but what keeps the story going? Scandinavian Journal of Work, Environment & Health. 2006;32(5):402–12. doi: 10.5271/sjweh.1036

11. Ioannidis JPA. Why Most Published Research Findings Are False. PLoS Med [Internet]. 2005; 2:[e124 p.].

12. Tatsioni A, Bonitsis NG, Ioannidis JPA. Persistence of Contradicted Claims in the Literature. JAMA. 2007;298(21). doi: 10.1001/jama.298.21.2517 18056905

13. Kivimäki M, Batty GD, Kawachi I, Virtanen M, Singh-Manoux A, Brunner EJ. Don't Let the Truth Get in the Way of a Good Story: An Illustration of Citation Bias in Epidemiologic Research. American Journal of Epidemiology. 2014;180(4):446–8. doi: 10.1093/aje/kwu164 24989242

14. Nieminen P, Rucker G, Miettunen J, Carpenter J, Schumacher M. Statistically significant papers in psychiatry were cited more often than others. Journal of Clinical Epidemiology. 2007;60(9):939–46. doi: 10.1016/j.jclinepi.2006.11.014 17689810

15. Greenberg SA. How citation distortions create unfounded authority: analysis of a citation network. The British medical journal [Internet]. 2009; 339. Available from:

16. van de Weert M, Stella L. The dangers of citing papers you did not read or understand. Journal of Molecular Structure. 2019;1186:102–3.

17. Wetterer JK. Quotation error, citation copying, and ant extinctions in Madeira. Scientometrics. 2006;67(3):351–72. doi: 10.1556/Scient.67.2006.3.2

18. Simkin M, Roychowdhury V. Do you sincerely want to be cited? Or: read before you cite. Significance. 2006;3(4):179–81.

19. Stordal B., Citations citations everywhere but did anyone read the paper? Colloids and Surfaces B: Biointerfaces. 2009;72(2):312. doi: 10.1016/j.colsurfb.2009.04.001 19411168

20. Jung D. “Assessing citizen adoption of e-government initiatives in Gambia: A validation of the technology acceptance model in information systems success”. A critical article review, with questions to its publishers. Government Information Quarterly. 2019;36(1):5–7. doi: 10.1016/j.giq.2018.11.003

21. Teigen KH. En artikkel for alle årstider [An article for all seasons]. Psykologitidsskriftet. 2017;55(5):472–7.

22. Jones SRG. Was There a Hawthorne Effect? American Journal of Sociology. 1992;98(3):451–68.

23. Adair JG. The Hawthorne Effect: A Reconsideration of the Methodological Artifact. Journal of Applied Psychology. 1984;69(2):334–45. doi: 10.1037/0021-9010.69.2.334

24. Franke RH, Kaul JD. HAWTHORNE EXPERIMENTS - 1ST STATISTICAL INTERPRETATION. American Sociological Review. 1978;43(5):623–43. doi: 10.2307/2094540 WOS:A1978FT33200001.

25. Wickström G, Bendix T. The "Hawthorne effect"—what did the original Hawthorne studies actually show? Scandinavian Journal of Work, Environment & Health. 2000;26(4):363–7. doi: 10.5271/sjweh.555

26. Lück HE. Der Hawthorne-Effekt–ein Effekt für viele Gelegenheiten? Gruppendynamik und Organisationsberatung. 2009;40(1):102–14. doi: 10.1007/s11612-009-0055-1

27. Carey A. The Hawthorne Studies: A Radical Criticism. American Sociological Review. 1967;32(3):403–16. doi: 10.2307/2091087

28. Muldoon J. The Hawthorne studies: an analysis of critical perspectives, 1936–1958. Journal of Management History. 2017;23(1).

29. Busse R, Warner M. The legacy of the hawthorne experiments: A critical analysis of the human relations school of though. History of Economic Ideas. 2017;25(2):91–114.

30. Paradis E, Sutkin G. Beyond a good story: from Hawthorne Effect to reactivity in health professions education research. Medical Education. 2017;51(1):31–9. doi: 10.1111/medu.13122 WOS:000393764500009. 27580703

Článek vyšel v časopise


2019 Číslo 9

Nejčtenější v tomto čísle

Tomuto tématu se dále věnují…


Zvyšte si kvalifikaci online z pohodlí domova

Nová éra v léčbě migrény
nový kurz
Autoři: MUDr. Eva Medová, MUDr. Tomáš Nežádal, Ph.D.

Imunitní trombocytopenie (ITP) u dospělých pacientů
Autoři: prof. MUDr. Tomáš Kozák, Ph.D., MBA

Pěnová skleroterapie
Autoři: MUDr. Marek Šlais

White paper - jak vidíme optimální péči o zubní náhrady
Autoři: MUDr. Jindřich Charvát, CSc.

Hemofilie - série kurzů

Všechny kurzy
Kurzy Doporučená témata