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Psychology and its Replication Crisis

Replication and its importance in science and psychology

Replication is the act of reproducing something in research. The process of replicating research determines the extent to which findings can be generalised across time and various situations.

There are two common types of replication: direct and conceptual. Direct replication refers to an attempt at reproducing an existing result using a procedure that has no reason to produce a different result. In conceptual replication, a different procedure is used to test the same hypothesis, which provides joint evidence for an explanation to a finding.

While direct replication can confirm that a finding is reproducible, it does not mean that the finding is valid. Similarly, conceptual replication can create confidence in an explanation for a finding, but conceptual replication on its own does not confirm the reproducibility of any evidence. However, direct and conceptual replication together are able to provide enough evidence to be certain about a finding and its explanation.

Reproductivity and replicability are extremely important in determining the accuracy of scientific methods because if trials cannot be performed with different input variables creating certain observed changes in the output, the experiment can be doubted.

Replication is particularly essential in psychology as research is used to learn more about whether a method can be applied to real-life situations in the fields of science. However, this is particularly difficult due to the complexity of humans and the many factors that may affect the way we act. Thus, replication is crucial to figure out whether an outcome is valid.

What is the replication crisis in psychology, and why is it important?

Currently, science is going through a replication crisis.

Psychology is the field most closely integrated with the replication crisis. The credibility of many findings are being questioned due to the inability to replicate results through direct replication. Due to this, many published findings and research practices are now under scrutiny.

Replication projects in the mid-2010s raised concerns about a few questionable findings and about publication bias, and the crisis went downhill in 2015 when a group of psychologists published a report about the severity of the issue. 100 experiments in top journals were attempted to be replicated by 270 psychologists, and only 40% of these studies were able to be replicated. Among these 40% of experiments, the replications showed weaker effects than the original papers.

This report was highly controversial, as it doubted the validity of research published in academic journals. Publication requires rigorous peer reviews to be conducted on the research so it was hence assumed that they were reliable, and can be built upon. Following the study, many research centres began to perform their own reproductions, and it was soon uncovered that a large portion of studies failed the replication test.

Actions taken for the future

The replication crisis has resulted in decreased public trust and confidence in scientific research. It has also led to many known psychologists leaving the field due to faking their findings. However, many are using this as an opportunity to reform the field of psychology, making research more credible and creating an improved ethic of openness and transparency in research. Many strategies are also being developed to ensure greater credibility for future findings.

Moreover, the process of releasing findings has changed. Psychologists used to keep their data private. However, more research is now openly available, which can bring advantages to both the field and individual researchers. For instance, scientists can now reanalyse data to verify results and check for errors. This means that scientific knowledge now does not require the recollection of the same data, leading to less waste of resources.

There are still uncertainties about which approaches will ultimately be most useful in increasing the accuracy of psychological findings. For example, behavioural research is inherently probabilistic, which means that it will always lead to failures to replicate, even when an effect is present. It is therefore clear that psychological science still needs to develop further procedures that can be used universally. However, it is evident that scientists are working hard in bettering the field of psychology, one step at a time.


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