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Department of Psychology

Dr Amy Orben

Michaelmas and Lent Term 2020/21

Access to the course (Students with Raven)

Summary: Are the behavioural sciences a robust science? To answer such a question, this course will encourage you to think critically about how behavioural research is conducted and how conclusions are drawn.

To enable you to truly understand how behavioural research functions as a science, however, this course will also need to discuss how scientists are incentivised, how they publish and how their beliefs influence the inferences they make. By engaging with such issues, this course will probe and challenge the basic features and functions of our disciplines. We will uncover multiple methodological, statistical and systematic issues that could impair the robustness of scientific claims we encounter every day. We will discuss the controversy around behavioural science and the replicability of its results, while learning about new initiatives that are currently reinventing the basic foundations of our field. The course will equip you with some of the basic tools necessary to conduct robust behavioural science research fit for the 21st century.

The course will be based on a mix of set readings, class seminars and remote lectures. Readings will include a diverse range of journal articles, reviews, editorials, blog posts, newspaper articles, commentaries, podcasts, videos, and tweets. No exams or papers will be set; but come along with a critical eye and a willingness to discuss some difficult and controversial issues.

Core reading: this is a very good book to read in preparation or during the course; it is not available electronically from the University Library but you could request it from your college library

  • Stuart Ritchie (2020). Science Fictions. London, UK: Penguin.

Additional core readings

  • Chris Chambers (2017). The 7 deadly sins of psychology: A manifesto for reforming the culture of scientific practice. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.
  • Zoltan Dienes (2008). Understanding Psychology as a Science. London, UK: Palgrave MacMillan.
  • Sophia Crüwell, Johnny van Doorn, Alexander Etz, Matthew C. Makel, Hannah Moshontz, Jesse C. Niebaum, Amy Orben, Sam Parsons, and Michael Schulte-Mecklenbeck (2019). ‘Seven Easy Steps to Open Science’. Zeitschrift Für Psychologie 227, no. 4: 237–48.


Below you will find the rough outline of each 2-week ‘session’ of this course.

  1. 1-hour recorded online lectures (or a selection of smaller lectures) will be released on odd weeks during Michaelmas Term (weeks 1,3,5,7) and even weeks during Lent Term (Weeks 0,2,4,6). They will provide you with an introduction to the session’s topic, an overview of core papers and an appraisal of initial arguments  You will be able to watch these lectures in your own time.
  2. The lectures will recommend some reading and small assignments (e.g. brainstorming some key questions) to do before the seminar session the following week.
  3. Complementary ‘live’ remote seminar sessions will be held on even weeks (Weeks 2,4,6,8); these will allow you to ask questions, discuss controversial topics and unresolved issues with your classmates and hear from some ‘special guest’ experts in the field.

While the seminar sessions are not mandatory to attend they are highly recommended.

Michaelmas Term 2020

Week Topic Access to the course (Students with Raven)

Week 1-2 Introduction                                     

Tuesday 13 October 2020 (live seminar at 3pm)

Overview of the course contents and aims; the scientific process; Merton’s norms; the replication crisis and how it began; defining Open Science

Access to the course (Students with Raven)

Week 3 & 4 – Replications

Tuesday 27 October 2020 (live seminar at 3pm)

Replications and why they started a crisis; understanding replications; backlash and counter-backlash; replications in other disciplines; the Many Labs movement Access to the course (Students with Raven)

Weeks 5 & 6 – Questionable Research Practices   

Tuesday 10 November 2020 (live seminar at 3pm)

Defining and discussing Questionable Research Practices and their influence on scientific inference in psychology; false-positive psychology and researcher degrees of freedom; multiverse approaches Access to the course (Students with Raven)

Weeks 7 & 8 – Preregistration and Registered Reports

Tuesday 24 November 2020 (live seminar at 3pm)           

Pre-registration and Registered Reports; the split between exploratory and confirmatory hypothesis testing; arguments for and against the drive towards preregistration; scientific creativity; blinded analyses Access to the course (Students with Raven)


Lent Term 2021

Week Topic Access to the course (Students with Raven)

Weeks 1 & 2 – Fraud, Errors and Scientific Self-Correction

Tuesday 26 January 2021 (live seminar at 3pm)

Understanding what makes fraud different from errors; methods used to detect errors; whether scientific self-correction is myth or reality; scientific errors and debates about how to address them Access to the course (Students with Raven)

Weeks 3 & 4 – Journals, Publishing and Computational Reproducibility

Tuesday 9 February 2021 (live seminar at 3pm)

Introduction to the for-profit publishing model; new forms of publishing; pre-prints; Open Access; peer review; Open Data Access to the course (Students with Raven)

Weeks 5 & 6 – The Statistic Wars (+Power)

Tuesday 23 February 2021 (live seminar at 3pm)

Null-Hypothesis Significance Testing: critiques and benefits; p-values; Bayesian methods (estimation and Bayes Factors); ‘Redefine Significance’ vs ‘Justify your Alpha’ Access to the course (Students with Raven)

Weeks 7 & 8 – Psychology as a Robust Science

Tuesday 9 March 2021 (live seminar at 3pm)

What makes robust inferences; triangulation and causality; theory and measurement; Psychological Science Accelerator; incentives and next steps Access to the course (Students with Raven)