Chapter 1: Section 3 Psychology as a Profession. What is a

psychologist scientist

Psychological / August 30, 2022


An angiogram and computed-tomography scan of a man's brain, used to locate his language centre.

Chris Chambers's portrait should sit high on the wall of heroes in the movement to reform science. A cognitive neuroscientist and psychologist, Chambers has had an important role as an editor and advocate in identifying, challenging and changing practices responsible for the reproducibility crisis.

Many fields of science — social, life, physical and medical — have had to acknowledge in recent years that much of their published research is not replicable (see Nature 543, 619–620; 2017). Psychological science was hit hard by that problem early this decade. But it quickly joined the vanguard of reform. In The Seven Deadly Sins of Psychology — part history, part autobiography, largely manifesto — Chambers identifies some “sins”, from biased reasoning to outright fraud, that led us to this point. And he describes specific reforms, some already well under way, that will make science more transparent, accessible and reproducible. As he shows, the sins are (mostly) not those of individual scientists, but of the processes and incentive structures under which scientists work.

Chambers ably illustrates these failings with tales from psychological science. The first chapter describes a 2011 paper by social psychologist Daryl Bem that reported nine experiments demonstrating evidence of precognition — the ability to predict the future ( J. Pers. Soc. Psychol. 100, 407–425; 2011). Published in the American Psychological Association's prestigious Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, it left many psychologists outraged. The article had followed the rules of scientific practice. Its studies all supported the same hypothesis; its methods included randomization and standard-looking data analyses. But close scrutiny of the paper and subsequent failures to replicate the studies (plus the unwillingness of journals to publish those failures) revealed many of the sins.

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