The Journal of Health Psychology has just published an extraordinary pair of papers that call for a new inquiry into a 30-year old case of probable scientific fraud.
According to Anthony J. Pelosi, author of the main paper, the case was “one of the worst scientific scandals of all time” and yet has never been formally investigated. The journal’s editor, David F. Marks, agrees and, in an editorial, also calls for the retraction or correction of up to 61 papers.
The scandal in question is one I had never heard of before, but the facts are jaw-dropping. Beginning in 1980, a Dr Roland Grossarth-Maticek reported that he had discovered a cancer-prone ’emotionally repressed’ personality. Someone with this personality type was, he claimed, at very high risk of later developing cancer. A second personality type predicted ‘internal diseases’, such as stroke and hypertension. Even more remarkably, Grossarth-Maticek said, a brief course of psychotherapy was enough to virtually eliminate the excess risks.
Despite the fact that Grossarth-Maticek was claiming to have found a way to prevent most cancers, his work was largely ignored. Then, at the end of the 1980s, he started a collaboration with Prof. Hans Eysenck, of the Institute of Psychiatry in London (now part of King’s College London).
Eysenck was an eminent and extremely influential psychologist in Britain, perhaps the most prominent of his era, so the papers that Eysenck and Grossarth-Maticek published together around 1990 were widely read. Eysenck had no role in the data collection of any of these studies, but his name was an endorsement of their credibility.…’