The replication crisis calls into question the entire process by which psychology research arrives at results—and all the laws based on that research.
In his recent article, “How to Rethink Psychology,” Pascal-Emmanuel Gobry identifies what is likely the single greatest threat to the psychological profession’s status as a serious scientific entity: the replication crisis.
Referring to the recent Reproducibility Project findings, Gobry’s explanation of the crisis leaves little doubt as to its importance: “Put simply, the findings in many — maybe most — experiments done in academic psychology and published in peer-reviewed journals cannot be replicated. In other words, if you run the experiment twice, you get a different result. That, to put it lightly, is a problem.” A really big problem.
According to The New York Times, “The vetted studies were considered part of the core knowledge by which scientists understand the dynamics of personality, relationships, learning and memory. Therapists and educators rely on such findings to help guide decisions, and the fact that so many of the studies were called into question could sow doubt in the scientific underpinnings of their work.”
It’s disconcerting when you realize the “core knowledge” these studies produced is what psychology advocacy groups use to inform legislators about important social policies. The report findings should sow more than doubt. They should be a huge caution to legislators and the general public who rely on the credibility of these research results. That brings us to the biggest problem arising from the report that no one is talking about: untrustworthy research influencing our local and federal laws.
Trading on People’s Trust in Science
Since the 1930s, when the Society for the Psychological Study of Social Issues (SPSSI) first came to be, psychology has helped shape the social agenda in America. Acting as caretakers for the poor and indigent, the SPSSI believed psychologists were far better equipped to speak on the pressing social issues of the day, like hunger, homelessness, racism, labor disputes, and the coming war. It turned out to be a profitable endeavor.