Study Casts Doubt on Some Psychology Findings - September, 2015

Recently published results in the journal Science of a study seeking to reproduce the results from 100 prior studies that “were considered part of the core knowledge by which scientists understand the dynamics of personality, relationships, learning and memory,” cast doubt on the results of a majority of those earlier studies.  The research effort, called the Reproducibility Project, began in 2011 and utilized the efforts of 250 researchers to try to reproduce the results reported in the earlier studies.  The researchers found that results could not be fully reproduced in more than 60 of the earlier studies analyzed.  However, the majority of the results in the redone studies did not contradict the findings in the earlier studies; rather, the new results concluded that the prior findings were not as strong as had been reported.  “A large portion of replications produced weaker evidence for the original findings despite using materials provided by the original authors, review in advance for methodological fidelity, and high statistical power to detect the original effect sizes.” The researchers found no evidence of fraud or deliberate falsity in the earlier studies.

Sources:  Benedict Carey, “Many Psychology Findings Not as Strong as Claimed, Study Says,”, August 27, 2015:  Structured abstract: “Estimating the reproducibility of psychological science,” August 28, 2015: http://www.sciencemag. org/content/349/6251/aac4716

by Neil Leithauser
Associate Editor