A Powerful Nudge? Presenting Calculable Consequences of Underpowered Research Shifts Incentives Toward Adequately Powered Designs

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If psychologists have recognized the pitfalls of underpowered research for decades, why does it persist? Incentives, perhaps: underpowered research benefits researchers individually (increased productivity), but harms science collectively (inflated Type I error rates and effect size estimates but low replication rates). Yet, researchers can selectively reward power at various scientific bottlenecks (e.g., peer review, hiring, funding, and promotion). We designed a stylized thought experiment to evaluate the degree to which researchers consider power and productivity in hiring decisions. Accomplished psychologists chose between a low sample size candidate and a high sample size candidate who were otherwise identical. We manipulated the degree to which participants received information about (1) productivity, (2) sample size, and (3) directly calculable Type I error and replication rates. Participants were intolerant of the negative consequences of low-power research, yet merely indifferent regarding the practices that logically produce those consequences, unless those consequences were made quite explicit.

Link to resource: https://doi.org/10.1177/1948550615584199

Type of resources: Primary Source, Reading, Paper

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

Primary user(s): Student

Subject area(s): Applied Science, Social Science

Language(s): English