Metastudies for robust tests of theory

Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2018 Mar 13;115(11):2607-2612. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1708285114. Epub 2018 Mar 12.


We describe and demonstrate an empirical strategy useful for discovering and replicating empirical effects in psychological science. The method involves the design of a metastudy, in which many independent experimental variables-that may be moderators of an empirical effect-are indiscriminately randomized. Radical randomization yields rich datasets that can be used to test the robustness of an empirical claim to some of the vagaries and idiosyncrasies of experimental protocols and enhances the generalizability of these claims. The strategy is made feasible by advances in hierarchical Bayesian modeling that allow for the pooling of information across unlike experiments and designs and is proposed here as a gold standard for replication research and exploratory research. The practical feasibility of the strategy is demonstrated with a replication of a study on subliminal priming.

Keywords: generalizability; many labs; metastudy; radical randomization; robustness.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Bayes Theorem
  • Biomedical Research / standards*
  • Data Interpretation, Statistical
  • Humans
  • Random Allocation
  • Research Design / standards*