Why Psychologists’ Food Fight Matters

Michelle N. Meyer, Christopher Chabris, Sept 02, 2014
Commentary by Stephen Downes

"Kids are spending more time than ever in front of screens, and it may be inhibiting their ability to recognize emotions." Oh Noes! But it says so in a study published in the journal Computers in Human Behavior. Should we even take note of this? Probably not. I'm sympathetic with John Ioannidis, who argued "Most research findings are false for most research designs and for most fields." Moreover, there is a significant bias in favour of positive findings, which influences not only what gets reported, but what gets studied in the first place. And when I read that "At least 10 of the 27 'important findings' in social psychology were not replicated at all," even if I'm no big fan of the fiction that is replication, I am additionally sceptical about the claims made about such studies. I don't think there are principles to be discovered on this way; at best, if we create large enough studies (which almost never happens) we can get a smapshot - grist for the intuitive recognizer of patterns of perception, but hardly the framework for a natural science of emotions.

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