Bad week for psychology

by Russ Roberts on May 5, 2013

in Data

I have argued for a long time that the experimental psychology literature has problems with replication. I explored this topic on EconTalk with Brian Nosek.

This has been a bad week for the credibility of that literature.

Last week, the New York Times Sunday magazine did a profile of Diederik Stapel whose work turns out to be a fraud. Now Scientific American reports that so-called priming results can’t be replicated:

Thinking about a professor just before you take an intelligence test makes you perform better than if you think about football hooligans. Or does it? An influential theory that certain behavior can be modified by unconscious cues is under serious attack.

A paper published in PLoS ONE last week reports that nine different experiments failed to replicate this example of ‘intelligence priming’, first described in 1998 by Ap Dijksterhuis, a social psychologist at Radboud University Nijmegen in the Netherlands, and now included in textbooks.

Interested readers may also enjoy this essay by Ariel Rubinstein (see the discussion of experiments) as well as this EconTalk episode with Rubinstein.

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