Dodgy sex-psychology paper finally gets retracted

Enlarge / Floppy data leads to abandoned high-heels research. (credit: Jason Parks / Flickr)

Two years ago, Ars published a story about some famous psychology research that smelled… off. Psychologist Nicolas Guéguen’s flashy findings on human sexuality appeared to be riddled with errors and inconsistencies, and two researchers had raised an alarm.

Now, four years after James Heathers and Nick Brown first started digging into Guéguen’s work, one of his papers has been retracted. The study reported that men were more helpful to women wearing high heels compared to mid heels or flats. “As a man I can see that I prefer to see my wife when she wears high heels, and many men in France have the same evaluation,” Guéguen told Time in its coverage of the paper.

Slow progress

Since Brown and Heathers went public with their critiques of Guéguen’s work, there has been little progress. In September 2018, a meeting between Guéguen and university authorities concluded with an agreement that he would request retractions of two of his articles. One of those papers is the recently retracted high-heels study; the other was a study reporting that men prefer to pick up female hitchhikers who were wearing red compared to other colors. The latter has not yet been retracted.

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