IN THE NEWS: The Chronicle of Higher Education (September 11, 2018)

[From the article “’I Want to Burn Things to the Ground’: Are the foot soldiers behind psychology’s replication crisis saving science — or destroying it?” by Tom Bartlett]
“As you’ve no doubt heard by now, social psychology has had a rough few years. The trouble concerns the replicability crisis, a somewhat antiseptic phrase that refers to the growing realization that often the papers published in peer-reviewed journals — papers with authoritative abstracts and nifty-looking charts — can’t be reproduced. In other words, they don’t work when scientists try them again. If you wanted to pin down the moment when the replication crisis really began, you might decide it was in 2010, when Daryl Bem, a Cornell psychologist, published a paper in The Journal of Personality and Social Psychology that purported to prove that subjects could predict the future. Or maybe it was in 2012, when researchers failed to replicate a much-heralded 1996 study by John Bargh, a Yale psychologist, that claimed to show that reading about old people made subjects walk more slowly.”
“And it’s only gotten worse. Some of the field’s most exciting and seemingly rock-solid findings now appear sketchy at best. Entire subfields are viewed with suspicion. It’s likely that many, perhaps most, of the studies published in the past couple of decades are flawed. Just last month the Center for Open Science reported that, of 21 social-behavioral-science studies published in Science and Nature between 2010 and 2015, researchers could successfully replicate only 13 of them. Again, that’s Science and Nature, two of the most prestigious scientific journals around.”
“If you’re a human interested in reliable information about human behavior, that news is probably distressing. If you’re a psychologist who has built a career on what may turn out to be a mirage, it’s genuinely terrifying. The replication crisis often gets discussed in technical terms: p-values, sample sizes, and so on. But for those who have devoted their lives to psychology, the consequences are not theoretical, and the feelings run deep. In 2016, Susan Fiske, a Princeton psychologist, used the phrase “methodological terrorism” to describe those who dissect questionable research online, bypassing the traditional channels of academic discourse … Fiske wrote that “unmoderated attacks” were leading psychologists to abandon the field and discouraging students from pursuing it in the first place.”
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