Saturday, August 23, 2014

Psychology research not replicated

I have posted many times on the sorry state of psychology research, and Slate has an article on a hot controversy over widely publicized social psychology results that cannot be replicated:
The researchers found that priming subjects to think about cleanliness had a “substantial” effect on moral judgment: The hand washers and those who unscrambled sentences related to cleanliness judged the scenarios to be less morally wrong than did the other subjects. The implication was that people who feel relatively pure themselves are—without realizing it—less troubled by others’ impurities. The paper was covered by ABC News, the Economist, and the Huffington Post, among other outlets, and has been cited nearly 200 times in the scientific literature.

However, the replicators — David Johnson, Felix Cheung, and Brent Donnellan (two graduate students and their adviser) of Michigan State University — found no such difference, despite testing about four times more subjects than the original studies. ...

In countless tweets, Facebook comments, and blog posts, several social psychologists seized upon Schnall’s blog post as a cri de coeur against the rising influence of “replication bullies,” “false positive police,” and “data detectives.” For “speaking truth to power,” Schnall was compared to Rosa Parks. The “replication police” were described as “shameless little bullies,” “self-righteous, self-appointed sheriffs” engaged in a process “clearly not designed to find truth,” “second stringers” who were incapable of making novel contributions of their own to the literature, and—most succinctly—“assholes.” Meanwhile, other commenters stated or strongly implied that Schnall and other original authors whose work fails to replicate had used questionable research practices to achieve sexy, publishable findings. At one point, these insinuations were met with threats of legal action.

Brent Donnellan apologized for his use of “go big or go home” and “epic fail,” and another researcher apologized for comments that seemed to imply that Schnall’s original work might not have been “honest.”
Wow. I guess those social psychologists hate to be held accountable for the accuracy of their findings.

I don't know who is right here. From what little I read, there are some good points on both sides. And good reason to be suspicious of the conclusion of both sides. When you read a news item about psychology research, be wary.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

The lady [Simone Schnall] doth protest too much, methinks.

Now researchers should study the converse: those who are dirty and immoral call others assholes.