Part 3 – Professor Michael Eysenck (and the Rest): Give Me Back My Attentional-Probe-Paradigm

by Christos Halkiopoulos

I continue the story of how my intellectual property was stolen by a group of leading psychology researchers at London University. The first two parts of the story are here and here.

Journal of Abnormal Psychology Investigation

Professor Angus MacDonald III admits that “intellectual theft” occurred in a Journal of Abnormal Psychology 1986 publication. Yet Editor MacDonald hands over the full responsibility to obtain a correction to the person whose ideas have been plagiarised. Plain silly!

Recall that I sent Professor Angus MacDonald III, Editor-in-Chief of the Journal of Abnormal Psychology, the manuscript of a paper I was writing about the ancestry of the dot probe paradigm, seeking his comments. Professor MacDonald’s inquiry led to the conclusion that: “intellectual theft or insufficient description of the origins of the idea had taken place”. The suggestion was to contact the authors to change their publication in a way that fully acknowledged my contribution. This process stalled when MacLeod, bluntly contradicted Eysenck and Mathews by claiming that they had not taken the idea for the dot probe paradigm from me. So, the Journal of Abnormal Psychology is still waiting for a University investigation into this before they finalise their course of action. One recently took place at St. George’s. Another one, carried out in Australia by the University of Western Australia, Professor MacLeod’s current employers, has already concluded. It is to this latter investigation that I now turn.

I have contacted Professor Angus MacDonald III, Editor of the Journal of Abnormal Psychology, repeatedly during the last few months, including an occasion where I sent an earlier version of these blog articles. I wanted to make the journal aware of the poor quality of the investigations carried out in the UK and Australia. I also kept telling them that they had the expertise and all of the evidence they needed to reach their own conclusions. The Journal’s Editor never responded to these additional emails.

Something is wrong here. When a researcher makes a substantiated claim that plagiarism has been committed in a journal article,  it seems grossly unreasonable for the journal to place the responsibility on the victim to persuade the plagiarising authors to publish a correction to the paper’s authorship.  Those authors have a massive conflict of interest; they are obviously motivated to not make such a correction, to not admit to the whole world that they stole somebody else’s ideas.

The final responsibility rests with the journal and publisher to retract the article for plagiarism or make the necessary correction to the authorship and apologise. Professor Angus MacDonald III, Editor-in-Chief, Journal of Abnormal Psychology, do your job as Editor, stop sitting on your hands and do the right thing. You know exactly what happened so either:

publish a correction to the authorship of Mathews, MacLeod and Tata (1986) to include Christos Halkiopoulos

or:

retract the article for plagiarism.

The University of Western Australia Investigation

Given its importance I will discuss this investigation in some detail.  On the 8th of April 2021, Dr Campbell Thomson, Director of the Office of Research at the University of Western Australia, informed me that an “independent external reviewer” would investigate my complaint against Professor Colin MacLeod. Recall that MacLeod had claimed that the attentional probe paradigm predated our respective lines of research. According to MacLeod, we both had independently adapted an existing paradigm to our interests.  This statement is in complete contrast to Eysenck and Mathews’ acknowledgement that the priority for the paradigm was mine.

The report from the reviewer arrived on the 18th of April 2021.  I was pleased about how quickly the investigation was concluded, but less impressed that the “independent external reviewer” turned out to be an “Adjunct Professor in the School of Psychological Science at the University of Western Australia”, i.e. somebody working in the same department as Professor MacLeod. This “independent” reviewer’s name has never been revealed.

Professor Colin MacLeod, University of Western Australia. His account of the alleged plagiarism is inconsistent with that of his two co-authors. They cannot get their story straight but nobody in authority has challenged them to explain themselves. Plain silly!

From the beginning the reviewer states that they are not going to address one of my two questions, namely why MacLeod’s views differ so dramatically from those of Mathews and Eysenck. Subsequent attempts to have this crucial issue addressed have been completely ignored and this important issue remains unaddressed to this day. It is easy to guess why.

It is time we looked in a little more detail at the two uses of the attentional probe paradigm (tone probe and dot probe) closely. Although this will make the discussion somewhat technical, non-specialists will still be able to follow the main arguments. Both applications of my attentional probe paradigm (the tone probe and the dot probe techniques) have been described in several publications. Publications of the 1980s mostly still associated, albeit rarely if ever correctly or fully, my experimental work with my name. As already discussed, the plagiarism of the 1981 experimental work would become ever more evident in published work later. 

A paper published in Psychology Research in the late 80s by the very group of interest to us here, conveniently describes in consecutive paragraphs, and in comparable detail, both my 1981 experiment and the one carried out by the St. George’s group. These two paragraphs are reproduced in the table below.

Halkiopoulos (1981) (From Eysenck, MacLeod and Mathews, 1987; p.191)MacLeod, Mathews and Tata (1986) (From Eysenck, MacLeod and Mathews, 1987; p.191)
“A student of the senior author (Christos Halkiopoulos) used a modified version of the dichotic listening task. Forty synchronized pairs of words were presented at a rate of one pair per second, and all of the words presented to one ear had to be shadowed, that is repeated back aloud. Half of the words presented on the shadowed or attended channel were emotional or threatening words (e.g., grave; fail), and the remainder were neutral (e.g., chairs; sale). All of the words presented on the unattended channel were neutral. A measure of the allocation of processing resources or attention was obtained by asking subjects to respond as rapidly as possible to occasional tones that could be presented to either ear immediately after a pair of words had been presented. A total of eight tones were presented, four on each channel; half of the tones in each channel followed a threatening word in the attended channel, and the remainder followed a neutral word in the attended channel. The Facilitation-Inhibition Scale (Ullman, 1962), which correlates very highly with measures of trait anxiety, was administered to 17 subjects, 10 of whom were classified as inhibitors and 7 as facilitators.   The probe reaction-time data were submitted to a three-factor split-plot analysis of variance, with facilitation-inhibition as the between-subjects factor, and probe channel (attended vs unattended) and attended word type (threat vs nonthreat) were the within-subjects factors. The key finding was the highly significant three-way interaction involving all of the experimental factors [F (1,15)=9.00, P<0.01]. More detailed examination of this interaction revealed that the interaction between probe channel and attended word type was significant for facilitators [F(1,6)=8.81, P,0.0025] and the same interaction with an opposite pattern was also significant for inhibitors [F(1,9)=3.36, P,0.05].”  “A rather similar paradigm was used by MacLeod, Mathews, and Tata (1986). Pairs of words were presented concurrently for 500ms, one word appearing towards the top of a screen monitor and the other towards the bottom. One some trials one of the words was a threat word (physical health or social threat) and the other word was neutral. The main task was to read aloud the top word of each pair, but sometimes a faint dot or probe replaced one of the displayed words, requiring a rapid response. Detection latency for the probe was regarded as a sensitive measure of visual attention, an assumption that has received empirical support (Navon & Margalit, 1983). The anxious group consisted of patients with a primary diagnosis of generalized anxiety and there was a group of normal controls. …The crucial finding in the analysis of the probe reaction-time data was a highly significant three-way interaction among anxiety groups, threat location, and probe location. The pattern of this interaction corresponded closely to that obtained by Halkiopoulos. …The similarity of the findings reported by C. Halkiopoulos (personal communication) and by MacLeod et al. (1986) is striking [.]”  

A number of points are in order here, before we return to the University of Western Australia investigation. My name is clearly associated with the 1981 experiment. However, although I was at that stage Eysenck’s student, and as already noted, the research described had been carried out under a different supervisor, Professor Norman Dixon, at UCL and well before I met Michael Eysenck.

More importantly, the two experiments are presented in such a way that they appear to be parallel developments and there is no indication that the St. George’s research owed anything to me. Although, in view of subsequent developments, such ‘slight’ shortcomings might not have been as innocent as may appear at first sight, I gladly accept that no noteworthy plagiarism is in evidence in the description of my study. It must be noted, however, that this use of my work (which formed an essential part of my PhD), took place while I was still a PhD student and without my consent. In fact, without even my knowledge. I would later be told it was to pacify my anger for not being properly acknowledged in the 1986 paper. Crucially, as already discussed, what was given to me in the 1987 paper would soon cynically be withdrawn in a series of publications by Eysenck that blatantly plagiarised my research.

Be that all as it may, this is how the reviewer lists the similarities and the differences between my experimental technique and the one used by MacLeod, Mathews and Tata (1986). In what follows, text in italics is directly quoted from the reviewer’s report sent to me by the University of Western Australia (Email dated 18/04/2021).

Both methodologies are concerned with the distribution of attention towards or away from certain critical words – words with meanings that are relevant to the clinical state of the participant.

Indeed, both do, although my research was not addressing the clinical state of the participants, but theoretically relevant personality characteristics.

Both present pairs of words at different spatial locations.

Yes, they do.

Both instructed participants to read or to name the word presented in one of the locations, called the attended location. Both assume that this instruction nominally directs the participant’s attention to that word.

Yes, they did.

Both use a secondary task methodology. That is, as well as a reading one of the words, participants were instructed to respond as quickly as possible to a brief event (called the probe) that may appear at either location. The idea is that if any attention had been allocated to the nominally unattended location, response times to the probe at that location should be shorter than would otherwise be the case.

Yes, they did. In fact, this is the seminal idea behind the attention probe paradigm.

And now for the differences: 

Hakliopoulus [I wish all these guys stopped misspelling my surname!] presented stimuli in the auditory modality with attended and unattended locations differentiated by the ear to which words were presented. MacLeod et al. presented stimuli in the visual modality with attended and unattended locations differentiated by their vertical position on a screen.

This is accurate but recall that my paradigm was devised, and discussed, as the attentional probe paradigm, and as such it is readily applicable to any sensory modality and, indeed, combination of such modalities. It so happens that my first attempt to use my paradigm was in the auditory modality. I had repeatedly discussed it with Eysenck as an attentional probe paradigm. The studies I include in my BSc dissertation as background to my work are all from the visual modality. The theoretical work preceding the description of my experiment in my BSc dissertation is about attention in general, not just auditory attention. At the time the St. George’s group was carrying out their research I was also devising studies using a dot probe, rather than tone probe, paradigm.

Hakliopoulus was interested in comparing groups of participants who differed in their primary mode of adaptation to stress – “inhibitors” who attempt to minimize their perception of stress, and “facilitators” who channel the stress into other activities (Ullmann, 1962)….In contrast, MacLeod et al. were interested in comparing groups who differed in their levels of anxiety. They hypothesized that when a critical word is presented in the unattended location, anxious participants are more likely to direct their attention to that location.

Why ‘in contrast’? My own use of the paradigm also has everything to do with anxiety. If anything, it does one better by theorising further in order to provide a tentative explanation as to why anxiety levels appear to be what they are, and address some of the processes which may influence their manifestation. In fact, subsequent work both by Eysenck and the St. George’s group (I assume under my influence), kept referring substantially to repressors and the like, thus paralleling the psychodynamic flavour of my own approach (e.g., Derakshan et al., 2007).

May I also add that what the reviewer claims is factually wrong. One reads in the 1986 paper the following:

One could reasonably speculate that the perceptual bias in normal subjects may be protective in limiting increases in anxiety by excluding minor threatening stimuli from the cognitive system at a very early stage of processing (MacLeod et al., 1986; p.18).

Mathews and Eysenck (1987) make the same point:

By implication, avoidance of mildly emotional threat cues at a very early stage of its processing is characteristic of nonanxious subjects, perhaps because it protects against repeated and unnecessary arousal (p.224).

A psychodynamic flavour, albeit not as articulated as in my own work, is definitely detectable here.

Because of their different hypotheses, Hakliopoulus presented critical words only at the attended location. MacLeod et al. presented critical words at both the attended and unattended locations.

This is plain silly!

Plain silly!

In further work, when I started my PhD, I did use critical words in the unattended channel. My theoretical framework, much more than theirs, was perfectly attuned to address preconscious determinants of attentional deployment. In a letter exchange (which I still have) with the great late Professor Donald Broadbent, we precisely discuss this aspect of my research.

The reviewer also refers to a paper by Navon and Margalit (1983) who had demonstrated that

Probes were more likely to be detected if they appeared near a highly informative location, defined in terms of the task participants were asked to perform. For example, in one experiment, participants were asked to identify if the word RIB or RID had been briefly presented. On some trials, the probe (a small bar) would appear over the location of either the first or third letter. As only the latter discriminates between the two words (B vs D), it has higher informativeness and probe detection rates were correspondingly higher.

MacLeod, as well as the anonymous reviewer, suggest that my findings, as well as those reported in the 1986 paper, depend on Navon and Margalit’s, work.  As a BSc student I just made the reasonable assumption that where your attention is at any particular point favors the processing of whatever inputs happen to be in that location. I did not think I needed to first experimentally demonstrate this. I also found reassuring the thought that if my hypotheses were confirmed then my study itself would also count as confirming my initial assumption.

Additionally, I did not theorise in terms of informativeness, in the way Navon and Margalit did (look at their task and the specific hypotheses addressed). If one followed, MacLeod’s and the reviewer’s logic, which strangely make such a big fuss about Navon and Margalit, then one would need additional research to demonstrate that it is the informativeness of the emotional versus neutral words that determines attention allocation. Even that would not have been enough, as one would still need to demonstrate that the type of information provided by the emotional attributes of those words, is what the attention allocation process responds to in that context. I could go on and on here, but I’d better stop. I am sure, the dedicated attention research specialist of today will have much more to say one way or another about all this. The seminal idea underlying my attentional probe paradigm is not limited to the use of reaction times to probes as indicators of attention deployment.  It is also how they are placed in the vicinity of one or the other of two clearly identifiable attentional channels in which simultaneous word pairs (or other types of relevant stimuli) are being presented (one stimulus per channel).

And now for the ‘independent’ and ‘external’ reviewer’s conclusion:

My conclusion is that there is no reason to believe that Prof MacLeod failed to appropriately acknowledge the contribution made by Mr Hakliopoulus to the experimental paradigm described in the 1986 paper of which he, Prof MacLeod, was first author (MacLeod, Mathews & Tata, 1986).

The reviewer also reports that MacLeod (one assumes in private conversation) has argued that

he was directed towards the relevant literature on visual attention by his PhD supervisor, Donald Broadbent….Having been so directed, it was simply a matter of joining the relevant dots.

Did he? Did he connect the dots in the way I described the seminal idea underlying the attentional probe paradigm requires? Or, as Andrew Mathews would confirm to me in a tellingly brief meeting, we once had at St. George’s, he did not. Rather, Mathews said, they were close to arriving at my paradigm. This, he said, should alleviate my distress at the way they had treated my work, a comment which made me exit his office prematurely, telling him that I could not believe I was talking to a psychology professor.

The only thing that really matters is how the dot probe paradigm was actually arrived at. Mathews and Eysenck are both perfectly clear about it in written and published statements, as well as in several personal exchanges with me. Precisely what reasons would they have to lie about it? Moreover, they were so close to the relevant research process as to make it impossible they have misunderstood what really took place.

Having perhaps bored the reader with all these technicalities, I should be reluctant to declare most of it as irrelevant. At best, and even this is not the case, all that such efforts, as undertaken by MacLeod and the anonymous reviewer, manage to do is to retrospectively chart an alternative route to the dot probe paradigm. I will grant them there may be a dozen of, more or less, different routes to inventing that, or any other, paradigm. But that is irrelevant.

Why doesn’t the reviewer address my second question? They work in the same department and obviously they had discussed aspects of all this.

Why, doesn’t Professor MacLeod tell us why his account differs so dramatically from those of very informed and significant others?

Why can’t the three authors of the plagiarizing paper (MacLeod, Mathews and Tata, 1986) at least get their story straight?

There is more. OK, let us assume, for a moment and for the sake of the argument, that the St. George’s group came up with the idea for the dot probe paradigm themselves. Let us assume that the accounts given by Professors Eysenck and Mathews are completely wrong.  Let us further assume that it is coincidental that the dot probe technique is the exact mirror image of the tone probe technique in the visual modality (see their own description of both earlier). And, crucially, let us finally assume I am completely wrong, over all these years, to believe what Eysenck and Mathews have been telling me, or to trust even my own judgement. 

They do not deny that they were aware of my paradigm and my findings, do they? So, why don’t they include such directly relevant research in their introduction? They omit any reference to it and, in the initial version submitted to the Journal of Abnormal Psychology, they do not even mention that mysterious ‘motivational’ effect my work seems to have had on theirs. An explanation of this, makes its appearance in the report of the St. George’s investigation (see later). I respond to it there.

I am still not finished yet (apologies dear reader). The reviewer’s first comment in his report is that we should be clear what is meant by an experimental paradigm:

In Psychology this usually refers to the entirety of the procedure used to address a research question. It may include aspects of the research design, the material presented to participants, the procedure used, instructions to participants, and the nature and interpretation of data that are collected.

Well, it is understandable that the reviewer has sought as wide and inclusive a definition of what counts as an experimental paradigm as possible. Like that, the maximum number of differences can be obtained when comparing my work to that of the St. George’s group.

I do not agree with all that they burden their definition with. Few would. Since when is interpretation of findings part of the definition of an experimental paradigm? You may have interpretative paradigms to look at experimental findings (my psychodynamically influenced way of thinking about these biases in an example of one), or indeed be inspired by them in the use you make of a paradigm.  But none of this should figure as a defining characteristic of the experimental paradigm itself. By allowing for that the reviewer enables the inclusion of those (imaginary, exaggerated, or of no consequence, anyway) theoretical differences between my research and that of the St. George’s group.

Finally, as MacLeod et al.’s research is claimed to be so unrelated to mine, why did MacLeod claim that my unpublished doctoral research at Birkbeck motivated the development of their paradigm? Precisely what did I do to ‘motivate’ him? Precisely what did he find motivating in it? I return to this later. And, forgetting about all else, is it not the case, and of this they were fully aware, that in 1986 they were not the first, as they claimed, to offer conclusive evidence about those attentional biases? This was in my BSc dissertation in 1981.

So, what did I manage to do that Colin Macleod did not? I will use an expression in the reviewer’s report to give an answer. I connected those dots!  And this led to my paradigm. Let us call it the ‘Halkiopoulos Attentional Probe Paradigm’ and be done with it.

Just joking, no need for a narcissistic baptism of my modest contribution to psychology. However, in the unlikely event anybody has missed what this paradigm is all about, here is my description of it:

THE ATTENTIONAL PROBE PARADIGM

by measuring reaction times to appropriately presented modality-specific probes, involves the simultaneous presentation of information over identifiable attentional channels to explore, attention allocation among channels (as a function of input emotionality and identifiable dispositional or other characteristics of the participants).

In my ‘generosity’, I do not insist that users always feel constrained by the parenthetical stuff!

(Please note that throughout I have not addressed all the complexities and issues expertly discussed in the voluminous technical literature on the dot probe (and related) paradigms. This would have been irrelevant to the aims of these blogs).

The St. George’s University of London Investigation

As mentioned earlier the Journal of Abnormal Psychology, refused to do anything to rectify the inaccuracies of the 1986 paper unless a proper investigation, carried out by a relevant academic institution, concluded that the St. George’s group had indeed taken the idea for the dot probe paradigm from me. So, the final step in my tortuous trajectory involved my asking that such an investigation be carried out by St. George’s.

I contacted St George’s with such a request in March 2021. Their first responses were far from encouraging. They claimed that not only were the authors of the 1986 paper no longer working at St. George’s, they also had no idea where they were.  In subsequent emails they told me that even if they managed to contact them, they could still refuse to co-operate. Finally, in an email of 18 May 2021, they informed me they had emailed all people that I kept mentioning in my emails to them.  I assume that meant Mathews, MacLeod, Eysenck and Tata. In the same email I was told that the College’s ‘Head of Research Governance and Delivery’ had been asked to consider whether my complaint could be addressed under the institution’s Research Misconduct Procedure.

Following these positive developments there were very extensive delays and I often had to ask what was going on. I repeatedly wrote to Professor Higham, the St. George’s Principal, to make sure the investigation moved on. A preliminary investigation was carried out which concluded that enough grounds existed for a full investigation to be carried out by a full investigating panel.  After a long delay, a three-person investigating panel concluded and I was emailed their report on the 22nd of July 2022. That is 18 months after I had first launched my complaint. Given the centrality of this investigation, I will quote extensively from this report and offer my response to it. All quotes (in italics) are from the official St. George’s report. The initials in the quotes refer to the following: M (Andrew Mathews), CM (Colin MacLeod), CH (Christos Halkiopoulos) and E (Michael Eysenck).

The overall finding of the St. George’s investigation was this:

Consequently we do not find evidence of plagiarism.

Given the way they searched, and the types of ‘logical’ inference they relied upon, this is not in the least surprising.

Under their section ‘Panel Findings’ they write the following:

– M has published a book chapter in which he discusses the origins of several ideas and methods of the time…This includes the statement: “…Then Michael Eysenck made contact, and we picked up the idea for the dot probe method from his student, Chris Haliopoulos (sic). I certainly remember that being a really fun time”.

The final statement is one I have repeatedly referred to, but it is important that they acknowledge it in this context. Important because soon after reporting it, they go on to contradict it.

– The panel felt that it was more likely than not that CM & M arrived at their chosen experimental design largely independently from CH’s ideas, which were complementary to but not the same as the ideas that led to the 1986 Article.

Imaginary scenario

The well-worn proverb about eating one’s cake and still having it occurs here.

If the idea for the dot probe design was mine, as Mathews very clearly states, how could it also be true that Macleod and Mathews arrived at this design independently of my ideas? How does one, logically, get from an acknowledgement that the seminal idea for the very paradigm was mine to denying any significant contribution on my part? To be fair, they claim that they ‘largely’ arrived at their design independently. So, what was my contribution? They go on:

– If there was some degree of influence of CH’s ideas and results on the development of the ideas in the 1986 Article, the Acknowledgment provided was appropriate to signpost this contribution to readers.

The Acknowledgement they have in mind here is the one I discussed earlier:

“Thanks are due to C. Halkiopoulos, whose unpublished doctoral research at Birkbeck College, London, motivated the development of the current paradigm.” (MacLeod, Mathews and Tata, 1986, p.15).

I have already commented on the ambiguity of the word ‘motivated’ in this acknowledgement, but that is not the most important issue here. The report continues as follows:

– The acknowledgement of CH on the 1986 Article was arranged by the authors after acceptance. CM states that this was to help alleviate supervisory difficulties between CH and E [Eysenck], rather than CH having contributed key ideas to the paper.

May I mention, once more, I never accepted that acknowledgment. Instead, I immediately complained to my Head of Department  (I still have a copy of my letter) that they were plagiarizing my work. More crucially, by now MacLeod claims I played no role in devising the dot probe paradigm.

So, did I contribute any ideas to the development of the dot probe technique or not? In the space of a few lines in their report the estimates range from

  • ‘none whatsoever’, to
  • ‘perhaps some’, to
  • ‘the idea for this technique is all my own’. 

The report goes on:

– While E’s description of CH’s ideas and results to M was inappropriate, especially without CH’s knowledge or consent, it is not possible to determine that this was the key factor, or even an important factor, in the development of the ideas leading to the 1986 Article.

And then again there is the claim that the extent of my contribution was clarified in a subsequent publication.

– In a personal letter from M to CH, M states that M, CM and E provided a clear description of the ideas relevant to the 1986 Article, including CH’s work with appropriate credit, in a review paper published in Psychological Research.

I have dealt with this already.  My work is described, indeed described in some detail by Eysenck, Mathews and MacLeod (1987).   But the experiment by MacLeod et al. is introduced there as a parallel development. The reader is not made aware that there was any knowledge by the St George’s team about my prior work.

And what about this:

– The 1986 Article could not have cited CH’s ideas or his undergraduate dissertation in the Introduction as they were unpublished at the time.

The reason MacLeod gives as to why they did not discuss my research in their 1985 paper is laughable. My research ideas were still unpublished in 1987 (one year after the 1986 paper) when, without my knowledge and consent, they did publish in detail my experimental paradigm and my findings.

The report also refers to a letter send to me by Mathews on September the 6th 1989 and which I had made available to them.   This is what Mathews writes:

“It has never been our intention to avoid giving credit to others who have influenced us or helped in providing research ideas. Since no such acknowledgement was included in the original article (which I regret), a fairly full description of your experiment as preceding our own, was included in a subsequent review by Mike Eysenck, Colin MacLeod and myself published in Psychological Research” (emphases added).

Referring to this same letter this is what the panel writes:

 M …does not appear to apologise for not including CH’s name as an author, or state that a reference CH’s undergraduate dissertation should have been included in the 1986 Article[.]

He certainly regrets not acknowledging my contribution.  More importantly, the reader can refer back to where I quote extensively from that Psychological Research paper to see that my work is not presented as either having influenced theirs, or as even having preceded theirs.

Could it be that Mathews, but not MacLeod, had been informed by Eysenck about my research and findings? Are we to believe that Mathews knew all along of my work but he kept it as a secret from his postdoc, MacLeod, and at some unspecified time MacLeod came across my ideas and results and exclaimed something like “what a coincidence, I am doing the same in your lab all this time that we have been discussing my research and as you surely remember it was all there in the application for that grant you liked and you gave me the job”!

Let’s get serious 

No such incredible scenario has ever been invoked. Not even by the otherwise imaginative MacLeod. Eysenck was very clear when he told me he was talking to the entire team about my research.  In fact, the understanding was that we would all publish together at some stage.  In fact, a paper with my name in it is announced in one of Eysenck’s publications.  The paper which is reported as being under preparation was being authored, according to Eysenck and Mathews (1987; p.208), by Eysenck, Halkiopoulos, MacLeod and Mathews. It never materialized as the idea for the joint publication must have predated the decision to drop me along the way.

There are other claims like, for example, that our theoretical approaches are different.  First, they are not that different (see earlier my discussion of the University of Western Australia’s investigation) and, secondly, this is not relevant to the issue at hand.

I had repeatedly asked the investigating panels to challenge Colin Macleod to answer one crucial question which I had posed to him by email but he had never replied. How come his account is so dramatically different from his then boss and co-author Andrew Mathews and my supervisor Michael Eysenck (recall that the latter has claimed he identifies me as the originator of the paradigm in 15 publications). There is nothing in the report to indicate that such a question was ever posed, or if they did ask, there is no hint whatsoever in the report about how he answered it. This is reminiscent of the fact that MacLeod never responded to precisely this question when I posed it to him be email.  The investigation by his own University explicitly states that such questions were not been addressed. Additionally, and throughout my dealings with St. George’s, I repeatedly and most explicitly insisted that such a question is posed to MacLeod and an answer is sought.

One wonders what Mathews has to say about all this. Does he now revise he clear statement that the idea for the dot probe technique was mine? And what about Phillip Tata, the third author of the 1985? The answers to these two questions, provided by a two sort sentences in the report is nothing less than shocking:

M [Mathews] has declined to provide further correspondence. Tata has not been approached.

And neither has Eysenck it would appear. The picture here is as disturbing as it is laughable. Out of the four directly relevant academics (MacLeod, Mathews, Tata and Eysenck) only one engages with the investigation. Two, Tata and Eysenck, are not even approached. But Mathews had expressed himself very clearly a long time ago.  And he does not seem to have changed his mind. The report registers this only to ignore its crucial relevance to the conclusion.  By ignoring evidence of such gravity, not involving crucial witnesses, and violating simple logic, the report concludes in the way that would fully please Colin MacLeod.

 No wonder: All there is in St. George’s report it what MacLeod had written to me before the St. George’s investigation had started, or even envisioned at that stage, and what is dutifully rehearsed in the ‘independent’ report of the investigation by his own University in Australia (see earlier).

Why does he not make available to us what he wrote to get that postdoctoral grant where apparently he had developed the ideas for the dot probe paradigm? I would very much like to see that proposal. Of course, he had used probes before.  Such procedures were known by then, although not to me when I carried out my research in 1980-1981. He had used probes in the context of dichotic listening studies, no less.  Does anybody remember the ‘paradigm’ used there?  He never had the idea of the attentional probe paradigm as I developed it. As I have already noted, his boss at the time, Andrew Mathews, had told me very clearly that it would have been a matter of time before they arrived at my paradigm themselves. Well, they would have been late if that ever happened. 

There is an exceedingly simple way the St. George’s investigating panel could have used to arrive at a reasonable estimate of my contribution to the dot probe paradigm. Rather than referring in a most self-contradictory manner to the two extremes (the seminal idea for the paradigm was mine vs I had nothing to do with it), they should have set this as an exercise to the three authors of the 1986 paper! They did not. Why?

As far as I am concerned Mathews is 100% right and so is Eysenck: The seminal idea for the dot probe paradigm was mine and nobody else’s. And they got it via Mike Eysenck, the academic who was supervising my PhD and who managed to betray me, and seriously harm me, more than once and in several different ways.

Postscript

A series of Correction Notices have appeared on bookseller websites, e.g.

1st Edition, Stress and Emotion, Edited by  Charles D. Spielberger et al.,1991: “Correction notice: In chapter 6, on pages 78-83, Christos Halkiopoulos should have been credited for his role in the design and execution of the experiment discussed”.

Anxiety: The Cognitive Perspective, Michael W Eysenck, Psychology Press, 1992: “Correction notice: In chapter 4, on pages 70-71, Christos Halkiopoulos should have been credited for his role in the design and execution of the experiment discussed in Eysenck, M. W. (1991 a). Trait anxiety and cognition. In C. D. Spielberger, I. G. Sarason, Z. Kulczar, and J. Van Heck (Eds.), Stress and Emotion, Vol. 14. London: Hemisphere.

Correction notice: In chapter 4, on pages 70-71, Christos Halkiopoulos should have been credited for his role as the inventor of the Dot Probe Paradigm and for the design and execution of the experiment discussed in Eysenck, M. W. (1991 a). Trait anxiety and cognition. In C. D. Spielberger, I. G. Sarason, Z. Kulczar, and J. Van Heck (Eds.), Stress and Emotion, Vol. 14. London: Hemisphere.

These correction notices are a step towards confirming the truth of the allegations of plagiarism. However they are only publisher’s blurb on bookseller sites and do not correct the permanent scientific record.

The discussed peer-reviewed journal articles and book chapters using Christos Halkiopoulos’ Dot Probe Paradigm remain uncorrected (full details to follow). The theft of CH’s intellectual property remains unacknowledged in the scientific record.

The authors, journals, publishers and institutions – the University of London and the University of Western Australia – remain fully complicit in the plagiarism described here.

To date, 36 years have gone by, nobody has acted, everybody has ‘passed the buck’. When will somebody with the necessary authority and power correct the scientific record and do the right thing: credit this author with his intellectual property?

© Christos Halkiopoulos, 2022

c.halkiopoulos@gmail.com

References

Borkovec, T. D. (2004). Andrew Mathews: a brief history of a clinical scientist. In Yiend, J. (Ed.), Cognition, Emotion and Psychopathology: Theoretical, Empirical and Clinical Directions. Cambridge University Press.

Derakshan, N., Eysenck, M.W., & Myers, L.B. (2007). Emotional information processing in repressors: The vigilance-avoidance theory. Cognition and Emotion, 21(8), 1585-1614.

Derakshan, N. & Koster, E. (2012). Information processing, affect, and psychopathology. A Festschrift for Michael W. Eysenck. Journal of Cognitive Psychology, 24(1).

Dixon N. F. (1971). Subliminal Perception: The Nature of a Controversy. London: McGraw-Hill.

Erdelyi, M. H. (1974). A new look at the New Look: Perceptual defense and vigilance. Psychological Review 81(1), 1-25.

Erdelyi M. H. and Goldberg B. (1979). Let’s no sweep repression under the rag: Toward a cognitive psychology of repression. In Kihlstrom and Evan (Eds). Functional disorders of memory. Hilldale, New Jersey.

Eysenck, M.W. (1991). Trait anxiety and cognition. In C.D. Spielberger, I.G. Sarason, Z. Kulczar, & J. Van Heck (Eds.), Stress and emotion (Vol. 14). Hemisphere.

Eysenck, M.W. (1992). Anxiety: The Cognitive Perspective. London: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates Ltd.

Eysenck, M.W. (1997). Anxiety and Cognition: A Unified Theory. Psychology Press.

Eysenck, M.W., MacLeod C., & Mathews, A. (1987). Cognitive functioning and anxiety. Psychological Research, 49, 189-195.

Eysenck, M.W. and Mathews, A. (1987). Trait Anxiety and Cognition. In Eysenck, H.J. and Martin, I. (Eds), Theoretical Foundations of Behaviour Therapy. Springer.

Halkiopoulos, C. (1981). Towards a psychodynamic cognitive psychology. BSc Dissertation submitted to UCL Psychology Department. OSF Preprint (10.31219/0sf.io/6y3d8).

MacLeod, C., & Mathews, A. (1988). Anxiety and the allocation of attention to threat. The Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology A: Human Experimental Psychology, 40(4-A), 653–670. 

MacLeod, C., Mathews A., & Tata, P. (1986). Attentional bias in emotional disorders. Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 95, 15-20.

Mathews, A. (1990). Why Worry: The Cognitive Function of Anxiety. Behaviour Research and Therapy, 28(6), 455-468).

Navon, D. and Margalit B. (1983(. Allocation of attention according to informativeness in visual recognition.

Norman, D. A. (1980). Twelve issues for cognitive psychology. Cognitive Science, 4, 1-21.

Yiend, J. (Ed.), Cognition, Emotion and Psychopathology: Theoretical, Empirical and Clinical Directions. Cambridge University Press.

Yiend J., Barnicot K., Koster E.  (2013). Attention and emotion. Handbook of Cognition and Emotion. 97–116.

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