Dozens of psychology studies are published in various research papers across the world every day. How reliable are they? To answer that question, a team of psychologists led by Brian Nosek of the University of Virginia tried to replicate 100 psychology studies published in three top journals in 2008. Nosek and his colleagues found that more than 50% of those 100 studies produced faulty or overstated findings.
Results for only 36 psychology studies could be reproduced
More than 270 psychologists came together to replicate the 100 studies conducted by others as part of The Reproducibility Project: Psychology. Findings of the study were published in the journal Science. When researchers re-ran those 100 studies, only 36 results were replicated. Even in these 36, the replicated results were far weaker.
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Findings of the study have confirmed the fears of psychologists, who have argued in recent years that the field needed a strong correction. In May this year, the prestigious Science journal retracted a study on the effect of gay canvassers on voters’ behavior after its author admitted to lies. A few years ago, a well-known psychologist in the Netherlands was caught fabricating data.
Findings of Nosek’s study don’t necessarily mean that the original findings were incorrect or the scientific process was flawed. There could be several possible reasons if you fail to replicate findings of a previous study. It could be because the original study’s results were false, or maybe the new results are false. Moreover, it’s entirely possible that psychologists mucked up their replication attempt.
There is a huge disconnect
However, Nosek was disappointed. He told The Guardian that he was expecting results to be more reproducible. It indicates that readers and interpreters of scientific studies should approach every new study with skepticism. Scientists also have the responsibility to present their findings in an honest and accurate way, instead of overstating things.
Marcus Munafo, a co-author of the study, said there was a huge disconnect between the scientific process and the researchers’ need to grab attention to advance their careers. They need to write lots of papers if they want to get promoted or get a grant.