Meta-analysis using effect size distributions of only statistically significant studies

Psychol Methods. 2015 Sep;20(3):293-309. doi: 10.1037/met0000025. Epub 2014 Nov 17.


Publication bias threatens the validity of meta-analytic results and leads to overestimation of the effect size in traditional meta-analysis. This particularly applies to meta-analyses that feature small studies, which are ubiquitous in psychology. Here we develop a new method for meta-analysis that deals with publication bias. This method, p-uniform, enables (a) testing of publication bias, (b) effect size estimation, and (c) testing of the null-hypothesis of no effect. No current method for meta-analysis possesses all 3 qualities. Application of p-uniform is straightforward because no additional data on missing studies are needed and no sophisticated assumptions or choices need to be made before applying it. Simulations show that p-uniform generally outperforms the trim-and-fill method and the test of excess significance (TES; Ioannidis & Trikalinos, 2007b) if publication bias exists and population effect size is homogenous or heterogeneity is slight. For illustration, p-uniform and other publication bias analyses are applied to the meta-analysis of McCall and Carriger (1993) examining the association between infants' habituation to a stimulus and their later cognitive ability (IQ). We conclude that p-uniform is a valuable technique for examining publication bias and estimating population effects in fixed-effect meta-analyses, and as sensitivity analysis to draw inferences about publication bias.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Data Interpretation, Statistical*
  • Humans
  • Meta-Analysis as Topic*
  • Publication Bias*
  • Statistical Distributions*