You may remember the study that found that sadness could cause people to lose the ability to see some colours. Well, it seems that it’s not quite that black-and-white!
Authors from the university of Rochester in New York have retracted their study that claimed that sad people were less able to discern yellow and blue colours.
It appears that the researchers fell foul of statistical methods. The study found that people’s ability to see blues and yellows were affected after watching a sad scene from a Disney movie but their ability to see reds and green was not affected. However, the study did not test the two findings against each other. Once that was done the results no longer stood up.
It’s a common error, a study in Nature Neuroscience found that roughly half of studies tested made the same mistake.
“Although I believe it is already clear, I would like to add an explicit statement that this retraction is entirely due to honest mistakes on the part of the authors.” – Study retraction note.
There were other oversights too, like the fact that the test subjects colour perception was not tested before the trial.
However, the researchers are not downbeat. They intend to do the study again and to pay more attention to the statistical niceties next time.
“We remain confident in the proposition that sadness impairs colour perception, but would like to acquire clearer evidence before making this conclusion in a journal the caliber of Psychological Science.”
So, back to the drawing board. The field of Psychology has taken a beating this year after an attempt to repeat 100 psychology experiments failed to reproduce the original findings in half of them.
Statistical analysis is a complex field not always understood by those who implement it in their studies. Or by nearly everyone…
- Retraction Watch – Retraction Watch Tracking retractions as a window into the scientific process Got the blues? You can still see blue: Popular paper on sadness, color perception retracted
- WPR – Authors Retract Study That Says Sadness Affects Color Perception
- Nature – Erroneous analyses of interactions in neuroscience: a problem of significance