Limited Functional Form, Misspecification, and Unreliable Interpretations in Psychology and Social Science

09/21/2020
by   Matthew J. Vowels, et al.
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The replicability crisis has drawn attention to numerous weaknesses in psychology and social science research practice. In this work we focus on three issues that deserve more attention: The use of models with limited functional form, the use of misspecified causal models, and unreliable interpretation of results. We demonstrate a number of possible consequences via simulation, and provide recommendations for researchers to improve their research practice. We believe it is extremely important to encourage psychologists and social scientists to engage with the debate surrounding areas of possible analytical and statistical improvements, particularly given that these shortfalls have the potential to seriously hinder scientific progress. Every research question and hypothesis may present its own unique challenges, and it is only through an awareness and understanding of varied statistical methods for predictive and causal modeling, that researchers will have the tools with which to appropriately address them.

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