Internal conceptual replications do not increase independent replication success

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Recently, many psychological effects have been surprisingly difficult to reproduce. This article asks why, and investigates whether conceptually replicating an effect in the original publication is related to the success of independent, direct replications. Two prominent accounts of low reproducibility make different predictions in this respect. One account suggests that psychological phenomena are dependent on unknown contexts that are not reproduced in independent replication attempts. By this account, internal replications indicate that a finding is more robust and, thus, that it is easier to independently replicate it. An alternative account suggests that researchers employ questionable research practices (QRPs), which increase false positive rates. By this account, the success of internal replications may just be the result of QRPs and, thus, internal replications are not predictive of independent replication success. The data of a large reproducibility project support the QRP account: replicating an effect in the original publication is not related to independent replication success. Additional analyses reveal that internally replicated and internally unreplicated effects are not very different in terms of variables associated with replication success. Moreover, social psychological effects in particular appear to lack any benefit from internal replications. Overall, these results indicate that, in this dataset at least, the influence of QRPs is at the heart of failures to replicate psychological findings, especially in social psychology. Variable, unknown contexts appear to play only a relatively minor role. I recommend practical solutions for how QRPs can be avoided.

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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, Social Science

Language(s): English