Meta-analyses are no substitute for registered replications: a skeptical perspective on religious priming

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According to a recent meta-analysis, religious priming has a positive effect on prosocial behavior (Shariff et al., 2015). We first argue that this meta-analysis suffers from a number of methodological shortcomings that limit the conclusions that can be drawn about the potential benefits of religious priming. Next we present a re-analysis of the religious priming data using two different meta-analytic techniques. A Precision-Effect Testing–Precision-Effect-Estimate with Standard Error (PET-PEESE) meta-analysis suggests that the effect of religious priming is driven solely by publication bias. In contrast, an analysis using Bayesian bias correction suggests the presence of a religious priming effect, even after controlling for publication bias. These contradictory statistical results demonstrate that meta-analytic techniques alone may not be sufficiently robust to firmly establish the presence or absence of an effect. We argue that a conclusive resolution of the debate about the effect of religious priming on prosocial behavior – and about theoretically disputed effects more generally – requires a large-scale, preregistered replication project, which we consider to be the sole remedy for the adverse effects of experimenter bias and publication bias.

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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, Life Science, Social Science

Language(s): English