The replication paradox: Combining studies can decrease accuracy of effect size estimates

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Abstract

Replication is often viewed as the demarcation between science and nonscience. However, contrary to the commonly held view, we show that in the current (selective) publication system replications may increase bias in effect size estimates. Specifically, we examine the effect of replication on bias in estimated population effect size as a function of publication bias and the studies' sample size or power. We analytically show that incorporating the results of published replication studies will in general not lead to less bias in the estimated population effect size. We therefore conclude that mere replication will not solve the problem of overestimation of effect sizes. We will discuss the implications of our findings for interpreting results of published and unpublished studies, and for conducting and interpreting results of meta-analyses. We also discuss solutions for the problem of overestimation of effect sizes, such as discarding and not publishing small studies with low power, and implementing practices that completely eliminate publication bias (e.g., study registration).
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)172-182
JournalReview of General Psychology
Volume19
Issue number2
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2015

Keywords

  • replication
  • effect size
  • publication bias
  • power
  • meta-analysis

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