Much ink has been spilled in the last week or so over the so-called “tone” problem in psychology, and what to do about it. I speak here, of course, of the now infamous (and as-yet unpublished) APS Observer column
by APS Past President Susan Fiske, in which she argues rather strenuously that psychology is in danger of falling prey to “mob rule” due to the proliferation of online criticism generated by “self-appointed destructo-critics” who “ignore ethical rules of conduct.”
Plenty of people have already weighed in on the topic (my favorite summary is Andrew Gelman’s take
), and to be honest, I don’t really have (m)any new thoughts to offer. But since that’s never stopped me before, I will now proceed to throw those thoughts at you anyway, just for good measure.
Since I’m verbose but not inconsiderate, I’ll summarize my main points way up here, so you don’t have to read 6,500 more words just to decide that you disagree with me. Basically, I argue the following points:
- There is nothing wrong with the general tone of our discourse in psychology at the moment.
- Even if there was something wrong with the tone of our discourse, it would be deeply counterproductive to waste our time talking about it in vague general terms.
- Fear of having one’s scientific findings torn apart by others is not unusual or pathological; it’s actually a completely normal–and healthy–feeling for a scientist.
- Appeals to fairness are not worth taking seriously unless the argument is pitched at the level of the entire scientific community, rather than just the sub-community one happens to belong to.
- When other scientists do things we don’t like, it’s pointless and counterproductive to question their motives. Continue reading
Some of you might have missed the kerfuffle that erupted in the last few days over a pre-print of an editorial written by Susan Fiske for the APS Monitor about us “methodological terrorists”. Andrew Gelman’s blog reposts Fiske’s piece, puts it in historical context, and does a fairly good job of articulating why it is problematic beyond the terminological hyperbole that Fiske employs. We are reposting it for your edification.
According to evolutionary theories, people's attitudes to recreational drug use may be influenced by their preferred mating strategies.
The following is a hypothetical exchange between a graduate student and Professor Belfry-Roaster. The names have been changed to protect the innocent….
: Professor Belfry-Roaster I was confused today in journal club when everyone started discussing power. I’ve taken my grad stats courses, but they didn’t teach us anything about power. It seemed really important. But it also seemed controversial. Can you tell me a bit more about power and why people care so much about it
: Sure, power is a very important factor in planning and evaluating research. Technically, power is defined as the long-run probability of rejecting the null hypothesis when it is, in fact, false. Power is typically considered to be a Good Thing because, if the null is false, then you want your research to be capable of rejecting it. The higher the power of your study, the better the chances are that this will happen.
The concept of power comes out of a very specific approach to significance testing pioneered by Neyman and Pearson. Continue reading
A recent podcast on the "Myth" of personality trots out long discredited arguments against the reality of personality. Why do these ideas keep returning like a restless ghost?
It has been unsettling to witness the seemingly endless stream of null effects emerging from numerous pre-registered direct replications over the past few months. Some of the outcomes were unsurprising given the low power of the original studies. But the truly painful part has come from watching and reading the responses from all sides. Countless words have been written discussing every nuanced aspect of definitions, motivations, and aspersions. Only one thing is missing:
Direct, pre-registered replications by the authors of studies that have been the target of replications.
While I am sympathetic to the fact that those who are targeted might be upset, defensive, and highly motivated to defend their ideas, the absence of any data from the originating authors is a more profound indictment of the original finding than any commentary. To my knowledge, and please correct me if I’m wrong, none of the researchers who’ve been the target of a pre-registered replication have produced a pre-registered study from their own lab showing that they are capable of getting the effect, even if others are not. For those of us standing on the sidelines watching things play out we are constantly surprised by the fact that the one piece of information that might help—evidence that the original authors are capable of reproducing their own effects (in a pre-registered study)—is never offered up.
So, get on with it. Seriously. Everyone. Continue reading
Choices people make in fantasy contexts reflect rather than complement their personalities. People may be reluctant to create imaginary identities that mismatch their real selves.