Hostname: page-component-8448b6f56d-dnltx Total loading time: 0 Render date: 2024-04-17T12:45:18.544Z Has data issue: false hasContentIssue false

Why Replication Is Overrated

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  01 January 2022


Current debates about the replication crisis in psychology take it for granted that direct replication is valuable, largely focusing on its role in uncovering questionable statistical practices. This article takes a broader look at the notion of replication in psychological experiments. It is argued that all experimentation/replication involves individuation judgments and that research in experimental psychology frequently turns on probing the adequacy of such judgments. In this vein, I highlight the ubiquity of conceptual and material questions in research, arguing that replication has its place but is not as central to psychological research as it is sometimes taken to be.

Research Article
Copyright © The Philosophy of Science Association

Access options

Get access to the full version of this content by using one of the access options below. (Log in options will check for institutional or personal access. Content may require purchase if you do not have access.)


The author would like to thank audiences in Hannover, Utrecht, and Seattle for helpful feedback. Kevin Elliott has provided insightful comments, which are also gratefully acknowledged.


Campbell, Donald, and Stanley, Julian. 1966. Experimental and Quasi-Experimental Designs for Research. Boston: Houghton Mifflin.Google Scholar
Chabris, Christopher. 1999. “Prelude or Requiem for the ‘Mozart Effect?’Nature 4000:826–27.Google Scholar
Collins, Harry. 1985. Changing Order: Replication and Induction in Scientific Practice. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
Earp, Brian, and Trafimow, David. 2015. “Replication, Falsification, and the Crisis of Confidence in Social Psychology.” Frontiers in Psychology, May 19. doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2015.00621.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Feest, Uljana. 2016. “The Experimenters’ Regress Reconsidered: Tacit Knowledge, Skepticism, and the Dynamics of Knowledge Generation.” Studies in History and Philosophy of Science A 58:3445.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Feest, Uljana, and Steinle, Friedrich. 2016. “Experiment.” In Oxford Handbook of Philosophy of Science, ed. Humphreys, Paul, 74295. New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
Fiedler, Klaus, Kutzner, Florian, and Krueger, Joachim. 2012. “The Long Way from Alpha-Error Control to Validity Proper: Problems with a Short-Sighted False-Positive Debate.” Perspectives on Psychological Science 7 (6): 661–69..CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Gelman, Andrew, and Loken, Eric. 2014. “The Statistical Crisis in Science.” American Scientist 102 (6): 460–64..CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Goodman, Nelson. 1955. Fact, Fiction and Forecast. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
Guala, Francesco. 2012. “Philosophy of Experimental Economics.” In Handbook of the Philosophy of Science, Vol. 13, Philosophy of Economics, ed. Mäki, Uskali, 597640. Boston: Academic Press.Google Scholar
LeBel, Etienne, Berger, Derek, Campbell, Lorne, and Loving, Timothy. 2017. “Falisifiability Is Not Optional.” Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 113 (2): 254–61..CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Leonelli, Sabina. 2018. “Rethinking Reproducibility as a Criterion for Research Quality.” In Including a Symposium on Mary Morgan: Curiosity, Imagination, and Surprise, ed. Fiorito, Luca, Scheall, Scott, and Suprinyak, Carlos Eduardo. Bingley: Emerald.Google Scholar
Lynch, John G. 1982. “On the External Validity of Experiments in Consumer Research.” Journal of Consumer Research 9:225–39.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Lynch, John G., Bradlow, Eric, Huber, Joel, and Lehmann, Donald. 2015. “Reflections on the Replication Corner: In Praise of Conceptual Replication.” International Journal of Research in Marketing 32 (4): 333–42..CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Mayo, Deborah. 1996. Error and the Growth of Experimental Knowledge. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Newman, John, Rosenbach, Joan, Burns, Kathryn, Latimer, Brian, Matocha, Helen, and Vogt, Elaine. 1995. “An Experimental Test of the ‘Mozart Effect’: Does Listening to Mozart Improve Spatial Ability?Perceptual and Motor Skills 81:1379–87.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Norton, John. 2015. “Replicability of Experiment.” Theoria 30 (2): 229–48..Google Scholar
Open Science Collaboration. 2015. “Estimating the Reproducibility of Psychological Science.” Science 349 (6251): aac4716.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Pashler, Harold, and Harris, Christine. 2012. “Is the Replication Crisis Overblown?Perspectives on Psychological Science 7 (6): 531–36..CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Rauscher, Francis, Shaw, Gordon, and Ky, Katherine. 1993. “Music and Spatial Task Performance.” Nature 365:611.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Romero, Felipe. 2017. “Novelty vs. Replicability: Virtues and Vices in the Reward System of Science.” Philosophy of Science 84 (5): 1031–43..CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Shavit, Ayelet, and Ellison, Aaron, eds. 2017. Stepping in the Same River Twice: Replication in Biological Research. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Soler, Lena. 2011. “Tacit Elements of Experimental Practices: Analytical Tools and Epistemological Consequences.” European Journal for Philosophy of Science 1:393433.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Steele, Kenneth. 2000. “Arousal and Mood Factors in the ‘Mozart Effect.’Perceptual and Motor Skills 91:188–90.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Zwaan, Rolf. 2013. “How Valid Are Our Replication Attempts?” Zeistgeist: Psychological Experimentation, Cognition, Language, and Academia, June 3. Scholar