Friday, May 23, 2014

Left-Web Craziness Infecting Science? (Or, Well, Semi-Science Anyway...)

Apparently, attempting to replicate studies is "replication bullying."

link (Science, behind paywall)

The article concerns the new effort to, y'know, actually replicate results in social psych. What some of us might think of as "doing science"...:
But rather than a renaissance, some researchers on the receiving end of this organized replication effort see an inquisition. “I feel like a criminal suspect who has no right to a defense and there is no way to win,” says psychologist Simone Schnall of the University of Cambridge in the United Kingdom, who studies embodied cognition, the idea that the mind is unconsciously shaped by bodily movement and the surrounding environment. Schnall's 2008 study finding that hand-washing reduced the severity of moral judgment was one of those Donnellan could not replicate.
So...does this come as a surprise to anyone? Did anyone actually believe that crackpot hand-washing study?  Honestly, my view is that there's a little cottage industry of cranking out counter-intuitive studies purely as (as a friend of mine puts it) a "VBM" (vitae-building maneuver). When I see crap like this I have a moment of annoyance, maybe I grouse about it here, then I move on. I'm shocked that anybody is shocked that this nonsense is non-replicable...
The output of the new batch of replications, published alongside the previous 13 this week in an issue of Social Psychologyguest-edited by Nosek and Lakens, is less reassuring. All told, the researchers failed to confirm the results of 10 well-known studies, such as the social psychological effects of washing one's hands, holding cups of warm or cold liquid, or writing down flattering things about oneself. In another five cases, the replications found a smaller effect than the original study did or encountered statistical complications it did not report. For embodied cognition and also for behavior priming—the study of how exposure to one stimulus, such as the word “dog,” changes one's reaction to another, such as a photo of a cat—the results are particularly grim. Seven of the replications focused on experiments in these areas, and all but one failed.
Same deal.
Schnall, however, says that her work was “defamed.” She believes she was denied a large grant in part because of suspicions about her work and says that a reviewer of one of her recently submitted papers “raised the issue about a ‘failed’ replication.” She adds that her graduate students “are worried about publishing their work out of fear that data detectives might come after them and try to find something wrong.”
Translation: my pseudo-scientific "work" was defamed when someone did some science on it. Now my students are worried that someone might do more science on our other pseudoscience, and they won't get jobs.

Gosh. If only there were some way to figure out who is at fault here...

Other researchers whose work was targeted and failed to replicate told Science that they have had experiences similar to Schnall's. They all requested anonymity, for fear of what some in the field are calling “replication bullying.”

And there it is.

"Replication bullying."

General styles of thought come and go. They are like logical fads. This fad is in the air in the weaker reaches of the humanities and social sciences, it infects middlebrow (and lower-than-middlebrow) discussions on the web...and here it is, metastasizing into more quantitative sciences...or, well...semi-sciences, anyway...

I'm well aware of the fact that I harp on things that can just be ignored...  But this kind of nonsense, once tolerated, has a tendency to grow. Stupidity is stupidity, and it's worth addressing before it starts getting out of hand.

Presumably this nonsense will be slapped down as it encroaches farther into more respectable sciences.


Blogger The Mystic said...

Frankly, I'm just impressed that there are attempts being made to replicate the results of these silly theories. Good for them.

10:22 AM  

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