Not all Failed Repications are Failures

[From the article “There Is More to Behavioral Economics Than Biases and Fallacies” by Koen Smets, published at the Behavioral Scientist]
“In some cases, follow-up studies have unmasked outright frauds, like Diederik Stapel, who fabricated and manipulated data to show that meat eaters are more selfish than vegetarians. Similarly, follow-up studies have exposed the dubious-but-perhaps-not-quite-fraudulent methods of people like Brian Wansink, whose papers have repeatedly been found to contain inaccuracies and errors undermining the validity of his conclusions.”
“But other “failed replications” are not quite so unequivocal once one looks behind the headlines. Human behavior is complex, and sensitive to context and circumstances. It is unwise to take an observed effect as gospel (we’ll come back to that in a moment), but it is equally unwise to take a single failed replication as proof that the originally observed effect does not exist.”
“…. We need to continue to replicate, in different circumstances, and build up the model of human cognition and behavior—much like how a sculpture is made. Start with a rough wire mesh, add some dollops of clay, stand back and observe, trim and refine. Doesn’t quite fit? Remove and start again. The difference is that a sculpture usually gets finished in the end. Behavioral economics will be a work in progress for a long time to come. But with the right sculptors, there is hope yet for a masterpiece.”
To read more, click here.

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