Nobel laureate challenges psychologists to clean up their act

Nobel prize-winner Daniel Kahneman has issued a strongly worded call to one group of psychologists to restore the credibility of their field by creating a replication ring to check each others’ results.

Kahneman, a psychologist at Princeton University in New Jersey, addressed his open e-mail to researchers who work on social priming, the study of how subtle cues can unconsciously influence our thoughts or behaviour. For example, volunteers might walk more slowly down a corridor after seeing words related to old age1, or fare better in general-knowledge tests after writing down the attributes of a typical professor2.

New Comment
11 comments, sorted by Click to highlight new comments since: Today at 1:03 AM

On LessWrong the title "Kahneman challenges psychologists to clean up their act" might be better; we already know who he is.

Who's Kahneman?

The Internet is well-suited to this kind of question. (I assume you weren't just being snarky.)

I was being snarky, but not JUST snarky. I didn't know who he was when I read the post, but I did immediately google him. I wanted to point out that we don't all know who Kahneman, or pretty much anyone else, is. Context is good.

mstevens - all of this might be good to include in the body of your article - thanks!

[-][anonymous]10y 4

This isn't unique to psychology.

It also seems to already exist.

Yeah, the part of Thinking Fast and Slow where Kahneman cites the walking-down-a-hall-slowly study and then says a page later "You must believe these results! They are science studies!" must have been embarrassing when that study failed to replicate.

Nice article. Much of psychology suffers from the failure to replicate experiments, for various reasons like funding, time pressure, and difficulties in obtaining the population required. I've worked in sensorimotor control for several years and recently some researchers have come up with the idea of putting together a database of studies on perturbations during reaching (which is a very widely used paradigm) because they can so often be divergent due to tiny changes in the experiments.

I'd love to see more of this kind of thing in psychology in general, just as I'd like to see registration of medical trials from pharmaceutical companies (with both negative and positive results published) to avoid the all-too pervasive publication bias.

How would registry of the trials work?

When I heard a lecture on this subject (there is pretty damning statistical evidence that drug trials are always slanted towards the company paying for the trials) the only viable proposal I heard discussed was to have the testing completely performed and controlled by an unbiased third party. (probably the government)

It's not necessary to have them completely performed and controlled by a third party - but the idea is if you want to do a drug trial, you sign up with an independent register saying which drug you're testing and what your methodology is. Then when the trial is done, you must report your results publicly.

That stops companies hiding negative trials and only publishing positive ones. It doesn't stop the data being manipulated, but that's another problem.

Found via bengoldacre on twitter.