Psychologists suggest that there is a need for more humility in the social, behavioral and life sciences

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Rink Hoekstra and Simine Vazire, psychologists at the University of Groningen and the University of California, Davis, respectively, have published a Perspective piece in the journal Nature Human behavior calls for more humility in the social, behavioral and life sciences. In their paper, they outline a method for instilling intellectual humility in the paper-writing and publishing process.

As Hoekstra and Vazire note, there has been a kind of crisis in the social, behavioral and life sciences over the last few years, involving several reports of inability to copy results in academic articles. The authors argue that this is due to a lack of intellectual humility and suggest that there is too much bragging and not enough recognition of the limitations inherent in such work. They suggest that a more humble approach is needed if the factors that led to the crisis are to change, and they have drawn up guidelines aimed at changing the publishing process. They believe that this will restore faith in the work being done.

The proposed changes include making titles and excerpts more honest in their descriptions of the work and the results. Similar changes need to be made in introductions; researchers must stop exaggerating the impact of their work and certain elements of the work itself. The method sections must remain true to their intended purpose – outline the work in a way that allows others to replicate what was done. Slightly flattering details should not be omitted, nor explanations as to why decisions were made. They also suggest that researchers change their focus in the results section; instead of only including the positive aspects of the research, they suggest giving readers an insight into some of the challenges one faces, or examples of things that did not work out as planned. And then finally, in the discussion section, they suggest that researchers avoid trying to give iron-clad results when they are not justified. In many social science experiments, they note, the results may indicate a finding rather than actually show that it exists.

The team concludes by noting that it will not be easy to change the perception of researchers in the softer sciences, but failing to do so may prove disastrous for anyone in the field if no changes are made.


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More information:
Rink Hoekstra et al., Aspiring to greater intellectual humility in science, Nature Human behavior (2021). DOI: 10.1038 / s41562-021-01203-8

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Citation: Psychologists suggest that there is a need for more humility in the social, behavioral and life sciences (2021, 12 November) retrieved 13 November 2021 from https://phys.org/news/2021-11-psychologists-humility- social-behavioral-life. html

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