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We sought to investigate the relationship between neuroticism and depression in an elderly cohort. In this paper, we describe the methods of an National Institute of Mental Health—NIMH-supported study and present findings among the cohort enrolled to date.
We used the NEO Personality Inventory to assess neuroticism, and we employed several cognitive neuroscience-based measures to examine emotional control.
Compared with a group of 27 non-depressed older control subjects, 33 older depressed subjects scored higher on measures of state and trait anxiety and neuroticism. On our experimental neuroscience-based measures, depressed subjects endorsed more negative words compared with controls on an emotional characterization test. In addition, we found a significant group-by-congruency effect on an emotional interference test where subjects were asked to identify the face's emotional expression while ignoring the words “fear” or “happy” labeled across the face.
Thus, in this preliminary work, we found significant differences in measures of neuroticism and emotional controls among older adults with and without depression.
The integrity of science requires transparency and freedom from interests other than the search for knowledge. A challenge to insulating the scientific enterprise from external influence is that the source of research funding tends to correlate with a study’s findings and authors’ interpretations of their findings. This “funding effect” (Krimsky, 2013) has been well documented, with a focus on the influence of for-profit/industry funders. Yet in psychological science, a comparable threat comes from ideological interests. This case study captures the potential influence of the ideological funding effect on psychological science.
The Ethical Challenge
Several years ago I was asked to serve as action editor for a journal article that reviewed and integrated several research areas. The authors’ interpretation of the evidence and its implications for public policy was quite controversial. The reviewers took issue with several of the authors’ interpretations, and in a revision, the authors addressed my concerns and those of the reviewers. Because there were several relatively minor issues that needed to be addressed in a second revision, I accepted the manuscript for publication pending these minor changes, but with the caveat that after accepting the final version, I would invite a commentary.
The final version of the manuscript was satisfactory. Howerver, I noticed that this version included an acknowledgment of a source of funding that had not appeared in previous versions.
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