Is the Psychopathic Brain an Artifact of Coding Bias? A Systematic Review

Frontiers in Psychology 12 (2021)
  Copy   BIBTEX


Questionable research practices are a well-recognized problem in psychology. Coding bias, or the tendency of review studies to disproportionately cite positive findings from original research, has received comparatively little attention. Coding bias is more likely to occur when original research, such as neuroimaging, includes large numbers of effects, and is most concerning in applied contexts. We evaluated coding bias in reviews of structural magnetic resonance imaging studies of PCL-R psychopathy. We used PRISMA guidelines to locate all relevant original sMRI studies and reviews. The proportion of null-findings cited in reviews was significantly lower than those reported in original research, indicating coding bias. Coding bias was not affected by publication date or review design. Reviews recommending forensic applications—such as treatment amenability or reduced criminal responsibility—were no more accurate than purely theoretical reviews. Coding bias may have contributed to a perception that structural brain abnormalities in psychopaths are more consistent than they actually are, and by extension that sMRI findings are suitable for forensic application. We discuss possible sources for the pervasive coding bias we observed, and we provide recommendations to counteract this bias in review studies. Until coding bias is addressed, we argue that this literature should not inform conclusions about psychopaths' neurobiology, especially in forensic contexts.

Similar books and articles

Publication Bias: The Achilles' Heel of Systematic Reviews?Carole J. Torgerson - 2006 - British Journal of Educational Studies 54 (1):89 - 102.
Publication Bias: The Achilles’ Heel of Systematic Reviews?Carole J. Torgerson - 2006 - British Journal of Educational Studies 54 (1):89-102.
Commensuration Bias in Peer Review.Carole J. Lee - 2015 - Philosophy of Science 82 (5):1272-1283,.
The “bias” bias in social psychology: Adaptive when and how?James Friedrich - 2004 - Behavioral and Brain Sciences 27 (3):335-336.
Bias in Peer Review.Carole J. Lee, Cassidy R. Sugimoto, Guo Zhang & Blaise Cronin - 2013 - Journal of the American Society for Information Science and Technology 64 (1):2-17.
The origin of the coding metaphor in neuroscience.Justin Garson - 2019 - Behavioral and Brain Sciences 42.
Evidence and Bias.Nick Hughes - forthcoming - In Clayton Littlejohn & Maria Lasonen Aarnio (eds.), Routledge Handbook of the Philosophy of Evidence.
The Heterogeneity of Implicit Bias.Jules Holroyd & Joseph Sweetman - forthcoming - In Michael Brownstein & Jennifer Saul (eds.), Implicit Bias and Philosophy, Volume 1: Metaphysics and Epistemology. New York, USA: Oxford University Press.


Added to PP

322 (#55,434)

6 months
123 (#23,675)

Historical graph of downloads
How can I increase my downloads?