Appropriate humility: choosing sides in the alpha wars based on psychology rather than methodology and statistics

[ Note: this is a first draft, a preprint of a blog post so to speak 🙂 ]

A recent 72-author preprint proposed to recalibrate when we award the qualitative label ‘significant’ in research in psychology (and other fields) such that more evidence is required before that label is used. In other words, the paper proposes that researchers have to be a bit more certain of their case before proclaiming that they have found a new effect.

The paper met with resistance, and although any proposal for change usually is, what’s interesting is that in this case, the resistance came in part from researchers involved in Open Science (the umbrella term for the movement to mature science through openness, collaboration and accountability). Since these researchers often fight for improved research practices ‘at all costs’ this resistance seems odd.

Thus ensued the Alpha Wars.

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When wishful thinking kills: the tragic consequences of misplaced faith in introspection

[Image by Silver Blue, https://flickr.com/photos/cblue98/]

[These are some thoughts that I’ll eventually work into a paper, so it may be a bit rough/drafty]

Psychology is characterized by an interesting paradox. On the one hand, it’s a very popular topic. After all, everybody’s a person, and the most important influences in most people’s worlds are other people. Who doesn’t love learning about oneself, one’s loved ones, one’s boss, and the leaders of one’s country? People are endlessly complex, so psychology and psychological research provide a veritable fount of knowledge.

On the other hand, that complexity of the human psychology is tenaciously denied. It is almost as if that complexity is seen rather like a spiritual entity, safe to invoke whenever it’s convenient to stare in wonder at the awesome quirks of nature and never-ending weirdness of people, but blissfully disregarded whenever it it threatening or gets in the way of day-to-day activities.

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