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Bauer PJ. Psychol. Sci. 2020; ePub(ePub): ePub.


(Copyright © 2020, Association for Psychological Science, Publisher John Wiley and Sons)






Issue 2 of Volume 31 of Psychological Science (2020) included the article “Declines in Religiosity Predict Increases in Violent Crime—but Not Among Countries With Relatively High Average IQ,” authored by Cory J. Clark, Bo M. Winegard, Jordan Beardslee, Roy F. Baumeister, and Azim F. Shariff (pp. 170–183). The abstract of the article summed up its message: “lower rates of religiosity were more strongly associated with higher homicide rates in countries with lower average IQ. These findings raise questions about how secularization might differentially affect groups of different mean cognitive ability” (p. 170). The authors’ conclusion was based on analysis of relations among national levels of religiosity, rates of violence, and IQ. In discussing their findings and their implications, the authors made a number of statements that have been interpreted as politically charged and that some members of the academic community interpreted as racist. Other members of the community questioned not only the claimed implications but also the empirical foundation on which they were based. Still others questioned how the manuscript came to be published in Psychological Science.

Following a great deal of public, and no doubt private, debate, the authors of the article requested that it be retracted. As Editor in Chief of Psychological Science, I honored the authors’ request and have formally retracted the article ( Under most circumstances, formal retraction would bring the episode to a close. But we are living under anything but normal circumstances. We are living under high global anxiety associated with a pandemic that has infected 8.5 million people and caused the death of almost half a million people worldwide (The Wall Street Journal, 2020). Across the globe, there is enormous political strife. There are economic downturns that bring the threat of recession and even depression, and with them, rising inequality. And there is a constant current of racial and ethnic conflict that in the best of times is just under the surface and in times of stress, crests with intensity. This is the context in which Psychological Science published an article that concluded that “secularization might differentially affect groups of different mean cognitive ability.”

My purpose with this editorial is to describe the process of review of this article in Psychological Science and to reflect on our editorial responsibility when we evaluate any work, but especially work that has broad societal implications, and on whether we met our responsibility in the case of this now-retracted article. I also reflect on ways that we can make the editorial process more sensitive to the broader impacts of the research we consider for publication in Psychological Science without introducing undue wariness about publishing work on important topics. In considering my comments, it is important that readers keep in mind that the Association for Psychological Science (APS) is committed to academic freedom and does not interfere with the editorial handling of or express opinions about the scientific papers it publishes and that the statements of any author published in any APS journal are not necessarily the views of APS ...

Language: en


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