‘If we continue as we are then psychology will diminish as a reputable science and could very well disappear’ so wrote Chris Chambers in his just published book The Seven Deadly Sins of Psychology: A Manifesto for Reforming the Culture of Scientific Practice (p. ix). Princeton University Press.
The problem is the widespread failure to replicate original positive findings, and the aversion of psychologists to independent direct replication, preferring instead the enthusiastic marketing of any novel positive finding. This is unfortunately also true of the clinical field where there are few independent direct replications.
Medicine and science are largely self- correcting. Until the paper by Topiwala et al in this week’s (June 10th 2017) British Medical Journal , 430-431 it was considered that studies suggested that a little drinking of alcohol was good for you but it has been discovered that even moderate drinkers (up to 21 units for men) were three times as likely as abstainers to have hippocampal atrophy. Chambers (2017) cites a similar example of self-correction from the field of physics, were in 2012 a study was published that suggested a sub-atomic particle a neutrino was found to have travelled faster than the speed of light, thereby upstaging Einstein’s theory. Within a few years there were 3 independent replications of the same study all with opposing findings. The original experimenter went back to the drawing board and found he had a faulty fibre-optic cable in the initial experiment. Unfortunately to ask for independent direct replication of bench-marking studies in psychological treatment is regarded as being negative and a fudge of conceptual replication is offered in which another study is conducted with a key feature absent e.g a blind assessor using a standardised diagnostic interview.