Psychologists are up in arms over, of all things, the editorial process that led to the recent publication of a special issue of the journal Social Psychology. This may seem like a classic case of ivory tower navel gazing, but its impact extends far beyond academia. The issue attempts to replicate 27 “important findings in social psychology.” Replication—repeating an experiment as closely as possible to see whether you get the same results—is a cornerstone of the scientific method. Replication of experiments is vital not only because it can detect the rare cases of outright fraud, but also because it guards against uncritical acceptance of findings that were actually inadvertent false positives, helps researchers refine experimental techniques, and affirms the existence of new facts that scientific theories must be able to explain….
Chabris, together with Dan Simons, was awarded the 2004 Ig Nobel Prize for psychology, for demonstrating that when people pay close attention to something, it’s all too easy to overlook anything else — even a woman in a gorilla suit. [They documented that experiment, in the study “Gorillas in Our Midst,” Daniel J. Simons and Christopher F. Chabris, vol. 28, Perception, 1999, pages 1059-74.]