Psychology is working on the hardest problems in all of science. Physics, astronomy, geology — those are easy, by comparison. Understanding consciousness, willpower, ideology, social change — there’s a larger-than-Large-Hadron-Collider level of difficulty to each one of these, but since these are more relatable ideas than quarks and bosons and mass coronal ejections, it’s easier to create eye-catching headlines and make podcasts about them.
This is the problem. Because the system for distributing the findings of science is based on publication within journals, which themselves often depend on the interest of the general media. So all the biases that system, and media consumption in general, inflame are now causing the sciences that are most interesting to the public to get tainted by that interest.
As you will hear in this episode, one of the most famous and most talked-about phenomena in recent psychological history, ego depletion, hasn’t been doing so well in replication attempts.
In the show, journalist Daniel Engber who wrote an article for Slate about the failure to replicate many of the famous ego depletion experiments will detail what this means for the science and the scientists involved.
Also, you’ll hear from psychologist Brain Nosek, who says, “Science is wrong about everything, but you can trust it more than anything.”
Nosek recently lead a project in which 270 scientists sought to replicate 100 different studies in psychology, all published in 2008 — 97 of which claimed to have found significant results — and in the end, two-thirds failed to replicate.
Clearly, some sort of course correction is in order. Which is what science does best. When science has been wrong in the past, it was science itself that discovered it. There is now a massive effort underway sort out what is being called the replication crisis. Much of the most headline-producing research in the last 20 years isn’t standing up to attempts to reproduce its findings. Nosek wants to clean up the processes that have lead to this situation, and in this episode, you’ll learn how he and others plan to do so.
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