Sunday, July 01, 2012

False-Positive Psychology: Undisclosed Flexibility in Data Collection and Analysis Allows Presenting Anything as Significant

Important paper below proposing a set of guidelines for authors and reviewers to counteract the problem of false positive results being over-published in scientific psychology journals.

Joseph P. Simmons 

University of Pennsylvania - Operations & Information Management Department

Leif D. Nelson 

University of California, Berkeley - Haas School of Business

Uri Simonsohn 

University of Pennsylvania - Operations & Information Management Department

May 23, 2011

Psychological Science, 2011 

In this article, we accomplish two things. First, we show that despite empirical psychologists’ nominal endorsement of a low rate of false-positive findings (≤ .05), flexibility in data collection, analysis, and reporting dramatically increases actual false-positive rates. In many cases, a researcher is more likely to falsely find evidence that an effect exists than to correctly find evidence that it does not. We present computer simulations and a pair of actual experiments that demonstrate how unacceptably easy it is to accumulate (and report) statistically significant evidence for a false hypothesis. Second, we suggest a simple, low-cost, and straightforwardly effective disclosure-based solution to this problem. The solution involves six concrete requirements for authors and four guidelines for reviewers, all of which impose a minimal burden on the publication process.
Number of Pages in PDF File: 8

Keywords: Methodology, Motivated Reasoning, Publication, Disclosure

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