IN THE NEWS: Scicurious (December 16, 2018)

[From the article “Sometimes a failure to replicate a study isn’t a failure at all” by Bethany Brookshire, published in Scicurious]
“As anyone who has ever tried a diet knows, exerting willpower can be exhausting. After a whole day spent carefully avoiding the snack machine and attempting to take mindful joy in plain baked chicken and celery sticks, the siren call of cookies after dinner may be just too much to bear. This idea — that exercising self-control gets harder the more you have to do it — is called ego depletion, and it’s one of the most well-known concepts in social psychology. There are popular books on it. Most of us have probably have personal experience with it.”
“But what if a huge study of thousands of people found no evidence for ego depletion?  What if some cultures actually show reverse ego depletion — where exerting willpower actually makes exerting more willpower easier? What if I told you that ego depletion does exist — but only if you believe it does?”
“…This idea — that sometimes it happens, sometimes it doesn’t — isn’t particularly satisfying. Most of us were taught that, in science, a scientist forms a hypothesis, tests it and then throws it out if it doesn’t work. That’s what the philosopher of science Karl Popper thought, says Janet Stemwedel, herself a philosopher of science at San Jose State University in California. In this view, scientists go out every day and “throw hypotheses in the deep end of the pool to see if they can swim.” By Popper’s standards, if ego depletion fails to replicate, it’s a failed hypothesis. It deserves to drown.”
“But there are other less hypothesis-drowning ideas of how science should work. Thomas Kuhn, for example, was a little more flexible. In Kuhn’s view, scientists don’t attempt to falsify a hypothesis. Instead, they work with it, seeing how many ways a hypothesis can explain things that happen in the world, Stemwedel explains. Once scientists can’t solve problems with that paradigm, it’s time to find a new one. In this view, not finding ego depletion in a particular context doesn’t mean it’s time to let it sink. It means it’s time to find new ways to look at the concept.”
To read more, click here.

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