Are most positive findings in psychology false or exaggerated? An activist's perspective

Date & time

3–5pm 11 September 2014




Dr James C. Coyne, Professor of Health Psychology, University Medical Center, Groningen, the Netherlands

In 2005, John Ioannidis made the controversial assertion in a now famous PLoS Medicine paper that Most Published Research Findings are False. The paper demonstrated that many positive findings in biomedicine subsequently proved to be false, and that most discoveries are either not replicated or can be shown to be exaggerated. The relevance of these demonstrations was not appreciated until later in psychology.

Recent documented examples of outright fraud in the psychological literature have spurred skepticism. However, while outright fraud may be rare, confirmatory bias and flexible rules of design and analysis are rampant and even implicitly encouraged by journals seeking newsworthy articles.  Efforts at reform have met with considerable resistance, as seen in the blowback against the replicability movement.

This talk will describe the work of one loosely affiliated group to advance reform by focusing attention not only on the quality of the existing literature, but on the social and political processes at the level of editing and reviewing. It will give specific examples of recent and ongoing efforts to dilute the absolute authority of editors and prepublication reviewers, and instead enforce transparency and greater reliance on post-publication peer review of claims and data.

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