The Beyond The Controversia On Research In Psychology: The New Look Of Psychosocial And Cultural Genomics in
“The International Journal of Psychosocial and Cultural Genomics: Health & Consciousness Research” / Oct, 2015
During the last years there has been increased discussion about the reliability of psychological research. Criticism has been activated not only because of many important cases of scientific fraud, but also because of numerous failures to replicate previous scientific findings. We can consider the recent findings of the “Reproducibility Project” as the largest effort to replicate published research in psychology. Researchers selected 100 papers published in prominent psychological journals and found that only 39 could be replicated. All that increased skepticism about the way psychologists conduct research studies. These critiques on failures to replicate many highprofile studies have been used for proclaiming a “replication crisis” in psychology. When several cases of published research cannot be reproduced by independent and objective scholars, then it is honest asking the meaning and value of our discipline. These evidences are legitimizing the popular notion of psychology as a “soft and fragile science”. Of course the impact of this issue for psychological research on public well-being is grave. Repeated failures to replicate published research are producing low trust in our work and in recommendations we offer to the society and the whole scientific community. For example, our patients ask healthcare providers recommendations based on solid and empirical evidence. Similarly, teachers and school administrators need to receive teaching and learning strategies that are validated in the best possible way. Psychology and Psychotherapy need to invest time and energy in strategies and methodologies based on objective and reproducible research. This situation needs our attention forcing our field of study to improve the way we conduct the research but it doesn’t necessarily suggest that psychological science has become less rigorous. It is interesting to see what happens in other scientific fields We know that psychology is not the only scientific discipline in the midst of a replication crisis in fact some evidence suggests that reproducibility of research in cancer biology is quite poor and that the failure to replicate does not affect only psychology.
The same problems of replicability and bias can be found in the fields of medicine and the life sciences. An interesting study by Harry Collins reported how physicists in the UK and US failed to replicate experiments by Russian scientists. When Russian and western scientists could work together they discovered that what they had taken as an irrelevant aspect of the experimental set-up had been crucial for the results the Russians obtained. But although we know all that, the question is trying to explain why so much psychological research fails the test of reproducibility.
Experiments may work for reasons the experimenters did not appreciate so the studies are right, but not for the reasons given. It has important consequences for explaining why some things from lab are not translated into successful treatments. This is the reason why the “Replication Movement” suggests that researchers should clearly communicate every detail of their methodology and if possible have an experimental protocol register before publication.
I think that the reasons of this real or presumed crisis are many and also caused by the complexity of this field of study. Here I will try to go beyond the typical discussion regarding the fact if psychology is a good science or not and if psychological research is really acceptable. I want to try opening our mind to a new look on our mind-body functioning and the way to do research about it. I don’t want to provide a definitive answer to such complex reasons staying back to “Replication Crisis” in Psychology but rather introducing you the issue from the new perspective of “Psychosocial and Cultural Genomics” which was born just for overcoming the epistemological, scientific and methodological limits Psychology showed during the last 30-40 years [ … ]