Academic journal article Memory & Cognition

Citation Rates for Experimental Psychology Articles Published between 1950 and 2004: Top-Cited Articles in Behavioral Cognitive Psychology

Academic journal article Memory & Cognition

Citation Rates for Experimental Psychology Articles Published between 1950 and 2004: Top-Cited Articles in Behavioral Cognitive Psychology

Article excerpt

Published online: 23 May 2012

© Psychonomic Society, Inc. 2012

Abstract From citation rates for over 85,000 articles published between 1950 and 2004 in 56 psychology journals, we identified a total of 500 behavioral cognitive psychology articles that ranked in the top 0.6 % in each half-decade, in terms of their mean citations per year using the Web of Science. Thirty nine of these articles were produced by 78 authors who authored three or more of them, and more than half were published by only five journals. The mean number of cites per year and the total number of citations necessary for an article to achieve various percentile rankings are reported for each journal. The mean number of citations necessary for an article published within each half-decade to rank at any given percentile has steadily increased from 1950 to 2004. Of the articles that we surveyed, 11 % had zero total citations, and 35 % received fewer than four total citations. Citations for post-1994 articles ranking in the 50th-75th and 90th-95th percentiles have generally continued to grow across each of their 3-year postpublication bins. For pre-1995 articles ranking in the 50th-75th and 90th- 95th percentiles, citations peaked in the 4- to 6- or 7- to 9- year postpublication bins and decreased linearly thereafter, until asymptoting. In contrast, for the top-500 articles, (a) for pre-1980 articles, citations grew and peaked 10-18- year postpublication bins, and after a slight decrease began to linearly increase again; (b) for post-1979 articles, citations have continually increased across years in a nearly linear fashion. We also report changes in topics covered by the top-cited articles over the decades.

Keywords Citations . Cognitive psychology . Impact factor


The number of citations that academic articles receive has become a well-accepted, objective measure for evaluating the impact (and likely the quality) of journals (Garfield, 1972), researchers, departments, programs, or institutions (Nosek et al., 2010; Rushton, 1984). A very high citation rate for a published article indicates that the research it reports has had a major impact in guiding the research reported in other articles in that field. Hence, an academic institution or research unit that has published many highly cited articles is thought to provide an environment in which important, high-impact research can be conducted, making that institution a more desirable location for other scientists or prospective students looking to advance their careers. For a journal, highly cited articles directly affect the journal's impact factor, which can influence journal submissions, because researchers strive to publish their articles in the most prestigious, and hence widely read, journals. As for individual researchers, total citation counts are correlated with eminence in one's field, as measured by their ability to predict future Nobel laureates (Garfield & Welljams- Dorof, 1992) and attainment of other scientific awards (Myers, 1970). Moreover, the citation rate for each of an individual researcher's articles is a key component in determining that researcher's Hirsch index (h-index), which is the number of that researcher's published articles that have received at least h citations each (Hirsch, 2005). (For example, an h-index of 5 indicates that the researcher has five articles, each of which has accrued at least five citations.) Despite the limitations of the h-index (see Krampen, Becker, Wahner, & Montada, 2007), at academic institutions emphasizing research, it is currently one of the most widely used measures (along with grant dollars received) for determining whether a candidate should be hired, tenured, or promoted, because it is a composite measure of both quantitative research output (i.e., the number of articles one has produced) and the impact that those articles have had on guiding the research of others.

Another way that citations can be used is to determine which individual publications have had a major impact on guiding the research of others in that research area. …

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