Robustness and integrative survival in significance testing: The world's contribution to rationality
David Bourget (Western Ontario)
David Chalmers (ANU, NYU)
Rafael De Clercq
Jack Alan Reynolds
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British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 44 (1):1-15 (1993)
Significance testing is the primary method for establishing causal relationships in psychology. Meehl [1978, 1990a, 1990b] and Faust  argue that significance tests and their interpretation are subject to actuarial and psychological biases, making continued adherence to these practices irrational, and even partially responsible for the slow progress of the ‘soft’ areas of psychology. I contend that familiar standards of testing and literature review, along with recently developed meta-analytic techniques, are able to correct the proposed actuarial and psychological biases. In particular, psychologists embrace a principle of robustness which states that real psychological effects are (1) reproducible by similar methods, (2) detectable by diverse means, and (3) able to survive theoretical integration. By contrast, spurious significant findings perish under the strain of persistent tests of their robustness. The resulting vindication of significance testing confers on the world a role in determining the rationality of a method, and also affords us an explanation for the fast progress of ‘hard’ areas of psychology. *I would like to thank Dick Boyd and Phil Gasper for helpful comments on the ideas presented here.
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