A group of 270 scientists replicated about 100 social science and psychology scientific papers and learned that in just 39 percent of cases the initial results were confirmed. The research team is concerned that psychology research may not have such a solid background as it claims it has.
All the studies were published in top medical journals in 2008. The research involved topics related to lifestyle, social interaction, memory, cognitive dysfunctions, attention span, and perception.
On the other hand, no medical therapies were challenged by the recent review. Nevertheless, scientists plan to see in the future just how accurate cancer biology studies are.
Psychologist Gilbert Chin of the journal Science recently said that the recent results do not mean psychology theories are all flawed. Instead they suggest psychologists should not rely so heavily on the “original experimental results” when trying to draw final conclusions.
Brian Nosek, one of the researchers involved in the latest study agreed. He said that researchers need to constantly question themselves.
“A scientific claim doesn’t become believable because of the status or authority of the person that generated it,”
Mr. Nosek added.
He also explained that a scientific claim is credible when it is confirmed and reconfirmed by other evidence. One of the major risks for scientific research is the temptation of scientists to cherry-pick only the data that seems “significant.” Moreover, there is also the risk of really small studies to trigger false positives or negatives.
There is also the pressure on researchers to constantly find new and interesting things to publish in top scientific journals. So, sometimes research is hasty and superficial. Plus, scientific journals do not publish the entire material sent by researchers. Only studies that are “tidy” and “positive” are peer reviewed and published, therefore rising the risk of overlooking the results that do not fit the story in the published studies.
But experts are concerned that the real picture is even uglier than the recent study revealed.
John Ioannidis of Stanford University believes that in reality only one-quarter of psychology studies can be successfully replicated. He also said that same thing happens with many biomedical studies.
Scientists, for instance, were able to replicate a research that had found people having to take part in a confrontational scenario such as playing a violent video game preferred music that made them angry beforehand.
Yet, when they tried to confirm the results of a study that had shown sugary drinks can help college students make tough decisions, scientists were unsuccessful. The study’s author believes that the biased results are linked to “geographical factors.”
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