Crisis of Confidence
University of Virginia social psychologist Brian Nosek and his collaborators replicated studies ranging from free will to memory, and they tried to be as faithful as possible to the initial experiments, even consulting with the original scientists.
In some cases, the group’s findings challenge what researchers thought they knew. However, Nosek insists we shouldn’t just reject the original results. Interpretation of a failed replication is more complicated than that. “Is it because the original study was wrong, because the replication was screwed up or because of an important difference between the original and the replication?” he says. “All three are possible.”
Finding answers depends on replication studies becoming more common, requiring researchers, funders and journals to place less emphasis on new discoveries. The study has generated fresh interest in reproducibility, which he considers more important than the bleak statistics. “I think we’ve proven that replication is not boring,” he says.