UVU psychology study among the most downloaded scholarly articles in 2018


A Utah Valley University psychology study was among the most downloaded scholarly articles published nationally in 2018, according to the American Psychological Association (APA). The UVU study found more than three-quarters of introductory psychology textbooks contained factual inaccuracies about intelligence. The study, “What do undergraduates learn about human intelligence? An analysis of introductory psychology textbooks,” was published in February in Archives of Scientific Psychology. It was also the subject of an earlier university press release. UVU faculty members Dr. Russell T. Warne and Dr. Jessica Hill coauthored the study, along with then-UVU student Mayson Astle.


“We never intended to write a popular article,” Warne said. “We just conducted a study that we thought was important. After the article was published, we knew we were getting a lot of attention, but to be ranked as one of the 10 most downloaded articles was still surprising.”


Among more than 4,000 articles published by APA in 2018, the UVU study ranked 8th.


“There was also a little bit of scandal in the findings. Who would have expected that the vast majority of textbooks would be wrong?” Warne said.


Hill, an expert in psychology education said, “The study is emblematic of UVU’s position as a leader in undergraduate education. We’re pleased that our research on psychology textbooks has been so well received. We hope that it leads to improvements in textbook accuracy.”


Among other articles in the top 10 were two official guidelines about reporting research results; a reanalysis of data on parenting styles and problematic child behaviors of 350,000 children in 52 countries; a study on the impact of sleep deprivation on memory; two articles on social media use; two articles on mental health therapy; and an article on bullying.


In examining the list, Hill said, “These other articles are on topics with broad interest across many branches of psychology or topics with a lot of social importance right now. Research on the teaching of psychology is a niche topic, so it is exciting to learn that there is broad interest across psychology in human intelligence and undergraduate teaching.”


The article was published in APA’s open-access journal, which means that anyone can download it without paying for a subscription or needing access to a university library. “I had non-professors and other laymen emailing me about it,” Warne said.


Aside from the attention, the study has had another beneficial consequence — Warne contacted the textbook authors and gave them a list of inaccuracies that the team identified. “Every textbook author was so gracious and professional,” he said. “And some of them told me that they planned to make revisions that implement our suggestions in the next edition of their textbook.”