For several decades, leading behavioral scientists have offered strong criticisms of the common practice of null hypothesis significance testing as producing spurious findings without strong theoretical or empirical support. But only in the past decade has this manifested as a full-scale replication crisis. We consider some possible reasons why, on or about December 2010, the behavioral sciences changed.
“On or about December 1910 human character changed.” — Virginia Woolf (1924).
Woolf’s quote about modernism in the arts rings true, in part because we continue to see relatively sudden changes in intellectual life, not merely from technology (email and texting replacing letters and phone calls, streaming replacing record sales, etc.) and power relations (for example arising from the decline of labor unions and the end of communism) but also ways of thinking which are not exactly new but seem to take root in a way that had not happened earlier. Around 1910, it seemed that the literary and artistic world was ready for Ezra Pound, Pablo Picasso, Igor Stravinsky, Gertrude Stein, and the like to shatter old ways of thinking, and (in a much lesser way) the behavioral sciences were upended just about exactly 100 years later by what is now known as the “replication crisis.”
An interesting discussion about the replication crisis, behavioural science and the passage of time. We have included links to six related items.
From the 1960s onward, the methodological reform movement included leading academic researchers who made compelling arguments, which leads us to ask, from our perch in the third decade of the twenty-first century: What went wrong? Why were these solid arguments set aside? Why, despite the pleas of Petrinovich and others, did the behavioral sciences take so long to internalize these critiques? And then what happened to make the field suddenly recognize the need for change and respond to the crisis?
1 Discussion of “What behavioral scientists are unwilling to accept,” by Lewis Petrinovich, for Journal of Methods and Measurement in the Social Sciences. We thank Margaret Echelbarger, Paul Smaldino, and several other people for helpful comments, Alex Weiss for soliciting this article, and the U.S. Office of Naval Research for partial support of this work.
2 Department of Statistics and Department of Political Science, Columbia University, New York.
3 Melbourne School of Psychological Sciences, University of Melbourne.