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Am Psychol. 2015 Sep;70(6):487-98. doi: 10.1037/a0039400.

Is psychology suffering from a replication crisis? What does "failure to replicate" really mean?

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Department of Psychology.
Department of Counseling and Clinical Psychology, Teachers College, Columbia University.


Psychology has recently been viewed as facing a replication crisis because efforts to replicate past study findings frequently do not show the same result. Often, the first study showed a statistically significant result but the replication does not. Questions then arise about whether the first study results were false positives, and whether the replication study correctly indicates that there is truly no effect after all. This article suggests these so-called failures to replicate may not be failures at all, but rather are the result of low statistical power in single replication studies, and the result of failure to appreciate the need for multiple replications in order to have enough power to identify true effects. We provide examples of these power problems and suggest some solutions using Bayesian statistics and meta-analysis. Although the need for multiple replication studies may frustrate those who would prefer quick answers to psychology's alleged crisis, the large sample sizes typically needed to provide firm evidence will almost always require concerted efforts from multiple investigators. As a result, it remains to be seen how many of the recently claimed failures to replicate will be supported or instead may turn out to be artifacts of inadequate sample sizes and single study replications.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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