Why hypothesis testers should spend less time testing hypotheses

Paper by Scheel, Anne M., Leonid Tiokhin, Peder M. Isager, and Daniel Lakens: “For almost half a century, Paul Meehl educated psychologists about how the mindless use of null-hypothesis significance tests made research on theories in the social sciences basically uninterpretable (Meehl, 1990). In response to the replication crisis, reforms in psychology have focused on formalising procedures for testing hypotheses. These reforms were necessary and impactful. However, as an unexpected consequence, psychologists have begun to realise that they may not be ready to test hypotheses. Forcing researchers to prematurely test hypotheses before they have established a sound ‘derivation chain’ between test and theory is counterproductive. Instead, various non-confirmatory research activities should be used to obtain the inputs necessary to make hypothesis tests informative.

Before testing hypotheses, researchers should spend more time forming concepts, developing valid measures, establishing the causal relationships between concepts and their functional form, and identifying boundary conditions and auxiliary assumptions. Providing these inputs should be recognised and incentivised as a crucial goal in and of itself.

In this article, we discuss how shifting the focus to non-confirmatory research can tie together many loose ends of psychology’s reform movement and help us lay the foundation to develop strong, testable theories, as Paul Meehl urged us to….(More)”