You know those times when you try to share a favorite movie, band, or restaurant with friends, and they just don’t get it? For mysterious reasons, you can’t refashion the moment for them as you experienced it originally. Where you found passion and insight and a life-changing creme brulee, they see just another meal served up by a sulky waiter.
For more than a decade, psychology has been enduring the institutional version of this. It’s called the replication crisis because researchers have been unable to replicate the results of many well-cited studies. And that’s a problem.
Unlike your Sunday dinner dispute—which can be neatly resolved with a fair-minded “to each their own”—scientific investigation rests on a bedrock of replication. It’s an enterprise-wide form of double-checking the work that allows science to prune false and misleading ideas from the corpus.
Not that psychology didn’t need a little trim. Thanks to a history of bad methodology, publication bias, statistical shenanigans, and overhyped conclusions, the field had grown many discoveries deserving of scrutiny. In one eye-arresting example, a study that compiled the findings of nine experiments showed that precognition was real. But it couldn’t be replicated. Neither could such popular darlings as social priming and power posing.