At a conference last week, I received an interesting piece of advice:
“Assume you are wrong.”
The advice came from Brian Nosek, a fellow psychology professor and the executive director of the Center for Open Science. Nosek wasn’t objecting to any particular claim I’d made — he was offering a strategy for pursuing better science, and for encouraging others to do the same.
To understand the context for Nosek’s advice, we need to take a step back — to the nature of science itself, and to a methodological revolution that’s been shaking the field of psychology.
You see, despite what many of us learned in elementary school, there is no single scientific method. Just as scientific theories become elaborated and change, so do scientific methods. The randomized controlled trial — which we now take for granted as a method for evaluating the causal efficacy of a drug — was a methodological innovation. Statistical significance testing — which is often taken for granted as a method for evaluating the probability that an outcome was due to chance alone — was a methodological innovation.
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