Replication in Psychological Science

If you have read my previous posts you know that I have some interest in replications. Etienne LeBel—founder of PsychDisclosure.org—definitely picked up on this. He sent an email with the good news that he and Lorne Campbell just got a paper accepted in Psychological Science. They report two really close replication attempts, both of which they had reviewed by the original author!

First things first. The original paper was also published in Psychological Science and tests a relationship between attachment style and preference for warmth after ‘treath’. Specifically, using MTURK, it finds that “participants with high attachment anxiety evidenced a pronounced desire for warm refreshments after recalling a romantic breakup. Individuals with low attachment anxiety did not respond in this way.” LeBel and Campbell very closely replicate the procedure, sample, and analytical strategy but they don’t replicate the original results.

This paper is special because the authors don’t make snarky comments about the original paper or author. They even worked closely together with the original author to get all the details right and in the paper it is clear that there are no axes that need grinding. Read this post by David Funder to understand why that’s special.

I really like this part where they explain why they attempted the replication in the first place:

“We are sympathetic with Vess’ theoretical integration, but wanted to directly replicate these results guided by the following rationale. A goal of science is to amass cumulative knowledge about natural phenomena, and after discovering that a phenomenon is reproducible one seeks to understand what explains that phenomenon. Given that one study (N = 56) has reported an association between activation of the attachment concerns of anxious individuals and heightened sensitivity to temperature cues, it is unknown if this phenomenon is reproducible. We therefore attempted to replicate this finding before seeking to explain it.”

This is probably how every research project that builds on other literature should start. If the original finding then does not replicate, well, then it doesn’t. As Sanjay Srivastava points out (I think he received the same email from Lebel), it is great that Psychological Science ‘owns the replication attempt’ and publishes it. In combination with Perspectives on Psychological Science’s replication initiative, it seems that replication attempts are becoming more and more common in our most-read journals! Awesome!

More on replication: post about my own replication paper and the response it received.

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About Job van Wolferen

PhD-student at TIBER / Tilburg University. Research: Moral hazard and fraud in the insurance industry. Interested in behavioral economics and JDM
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2 Responses to Replication in Psychological Science

  1. Pingback: One example of how to do it | funderstorms

  2. Pingback: Articles I Like | Job van Wolferen

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