Correcting for Bias in Psychology: A Comparison of Meta-Analytic Methods

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Publication bias and questionable research practices in primary research can lead to badly overestimated effects in meta-analysis. Methodologists have proposed a variety of statistical approaches to correct for such overestimation. However, it is not clear which methods work best for data typically seen in psychology. Here, we present a comprehensive simulation study in which we examined how some of the most promising meta-analytic methods perform on data that might realistically be produced by research in psychology. We simulated several levels of questionable research practices, publication bias, and heterogeneity, and used study sample sizes empirically derived from the literature. Our results clearly indicated that no single meta-analytic method consistently outperformed all the others. Therefore, we recommend that meta-analysts in psychology focus on sensitivity analyses—that is, report on a variety of methods, consider the conditions under which these methods fail (as indicated by simulation studies such as ours), and then report how conclusions might change depending on which conditions are most plausible. Moreover, given the dependence of meta-analytic methods on untestable assumptions, we strongly recommend that researchers in psychology continue their efforts to improve the primary literature and conduct large-scale, preregistered replications. We provide detailed results and simulation code at and interactive figures at

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Type of resources: Primary Source, Reading, Paper

Education level(s): College / Upper Division (Undergraduates)

Primary user(s): Student

Subject area(s): Applied Science, Math & Statistics, Social Science

Language(s): English