Can the behavioral sciences self-correct? A social epistemic study.
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Studies in history and philosophy of science, ISSN: 0039-3681, Vol: 60, Page: 55-69
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- Arts and Humanities
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Advocates of the self-corrective thesis argue that scientific method will refute false theories and find closer approximations to the truth in the long run. I discuss a contemporary interpretation of this thesis in terms of frequentist statistics in the context of the behavioral sciences. First, I identify experimental replications and systematic aggregation of evidence (meta-analysis) as the self-corrective mechanism. Then, I present a computer simulation study of scientific communities that implement this mechanism to argue that frequentist statistics may converge upon a correct estimate or not depending on the social structure of the community that uses it. Based on this study, I argue that methodological explanations of the "replicability crisis" in psychology are limited and propose an alternative explanation in terms of biases. Finally, I conclude suggesting that scientific self-correction should be understood as an interaction effect between inference methods and social structures.