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Is Psychology Doomed? The Problem With Psychological Research

725521_70463323Richard’s off, C.R. writes:

“Of 100 studies published in top-ranking journals in 2008, 75% of social psychology experiments and half of cognitive studies failed the replication test.”

So states a Guardian article about a recent study in the journal, Science, “which saw 270 scientists repeat experiments on five continents, [and which] was launched by psychologists in the US in response to rising concerns over the reliability of psychology research.”

Why is this important and why should you care?

For several reasons, not the least of which are:

how the experts and pundits we trust define and explain everything, from society, culture, poverty, racism religious beliefs, political beliefs, to even news events such as shootings

how we come to understand other individuals and most important, our selves

and how, very important, mental illness is treated

Our beliefs and actions depend, to varying degrees in each of us, on these flawed studies.

(Plus, in this blog and others, we often rely on studies and feel it can be meaningful to share the latest research findings with you.)

Another important reason to care: More than a billion of your tax dollars go to social science funding in the United States alone. Government-funded or not, social science, especially psychology, studies need to make social, scientific, and financial sense.

We need to get this right!

If you and I have to give our money to researchers, academics, and others in psychology and related fields, there simply has to be more oversight.

Is Psychology A Science?

For anyone who has benefited from psychotherapy, psychology, and related treatment, the answer might be, possibly, “Who cares?” But for those who’ve struggled and not seen benefits, or who have even experienced negative results, the answer may be vital.

No way can we solve that question in a blog. Science comes from the Latin, scientia, which means knowledge, and is the present participle of scīre to know. The main definitions of science that are relevant to our discussion, from, are:

a branch of knowledge or study dealing with a body of facts or truths systematically arranged and showing the operation of general laws

systematic knowledge of the physical or material world gained through observation and experimentation

any of the branches of natural or physical science

systematized knowledge in general

knowledge, as of facts or principles; knowledge gained by systematic study

a particular branch of knowledge

The key concepts running through these definitions are: knowledge, facts, truths, laws, and principles. In other words, provable facts.

We know that the scientific method, the aim of which is to test hypothesis and either prove or disprove them, is concerned with knowledge, facts, truths, laws, and principles and experiments which reveal these. The conclusions reached must be able to shown to be true when the experiment is repeated.

Psychology helps us make sense of the world. If we’re going to give psychological researchers, whether in social psychology or not, any amount of science funding, they must do a better job.

Related Study:

Why Most Published Research Findings Are False

Related PsychCentral Therapy Soup Posts:

The Rich, Social Psychology, and Personal Destiny

Are You Being Lied To? Develop Your “Cheat-Smarts”

He Forged Data for Fame and Money

Bias and Political Diversity in Social Psychology

Related PsychCentral Posts:

What Research Can You Believe?



Is Psychology Doomed? The Problem With Psychological Research

Richard Zwolinski, LMHC, CASAC & C.R. Zwolinski

Richard Zwolinski, LMHC, CASAC is the author of Therapy Revolution: Find Help, Get Better, and Move On Without Wasting Time or Money and is licensed in addiction and psychotherapy with over 25 years experience as well as a consultant to organizations and companies in the fields of mental health and addiction. He is the executive director of an outpatient behavioral health program. Learn more about Richard here.

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APA Reference
& C.R. Zwolinski, R. (2015). Is Psychology Doomed? The Problem With Psychological Research. Psych Central. Retrieved on September 23, 2020, from


Last updated: 31 Aug 2015
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