'Prevalence of Questionable Research Practices in Psychology,' HPS Seminar

Arts West North Wing 553 (Discursive Space)

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Fiona Fidler


Professor Franca Agnoli, Psychology, University of Padua, Italy

Questionable research practices (QRPs) increase the likelihood of finding evidence in support of a hypothesis, but the evidence may be spurious. John, Loewenstein, and Prelec (2012) surveyed academic psychologists at U.S. universities and found that a surprisingly large percentage had engaged in QRPs. We investigated the prevalence of these practices within the Italian psychological research community. We surveyed 277 members of the Association of Italian Psychologists (AIP) regarding their use of the same 10 QRPs studied by John et al. The results are strikingly similar to those obtained for U.S. psychologists, showing that QRPs are about equally widespread in both research communities. For example, more than 50% in both research communities reported that they had decided whether to collect more data after first checking whether the results were significant, whereas less than 3% in both communities reported that they had falsified data. In this talk, we will describe the ten QRPs studied and the frequency of their use within the Italian research community. The frequencies of use differed systematically across QRPs, and some respondents explained in a free-text section of the survey why they considered the use of more frequently adopted practices to be justifiable. These results confirm that extreme forms of scientific misconduct are rare, but a large percentage of psychologists employ questionable practices. Some researchers consider these practices justifiable in certain circumstances, despite the risk of finding spurious evidence in support of the research hypothesis.