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Perspect Psychol Sci. 2014 Jan;9(1):59-71. doi: 10.1177/1745691613514450.

The Alleged Crisis and the Illusion of Exact Replication.

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Department of Psychology, Utrecht University, the Netherlands Department of Social and Organizational Psychology, University of Groningen, the Netherlands
Department of Psychology, University of Würzburg, Germany.


There has been increasing criticism of the way psychologists conduct and analyze studies. These critiques as well as failures to replicate several high-profile studies have been used as justification to proclaim a "replication crisis" in psychology. Psychologists are encouraged to conduct more "exact" replications of published studies to assess the reproducibility of psychological research. This article argues that the alleged "crisis of replicability" is primarily due to an epistemological misunderstanding that emphasizes the phenomenon instead of its underlying mechanisms. As a consequence, a replicated phenomenon may not serve as a rigorous test of a theoretical hypothesis because identical operationalizations of variables in studies conducted at different times and with different subject populations might test different theoretical constructs. Therefore, we propose that for meaningful replications, attempts at reinstating the original circumstances are not sufficient. Instead, replicators must ascertain that conditions are realized that reflect the theoretical variable(s) manipulated (and/or measured) in the original study.


critical rationalism; epistemology; null findings; priming; replicability crisis; replication; scientific fraud


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