Discover the most talked about and latest scientific content & concepts.

Journal: Psychonomic bulletin & review


The dominant paradigm for inference in psychology is a null-hypothesis significance testing one. Recently, the foundations of this paradigm have been shaken by several notable replication failures. One recommendation to remedy the replication crisis is to collect larger samples of participants. We argue that this recommendation misses a critical point, which is that increasing sample size will not remedy psychology’s lack of strong measurement, lack of strong theories and models, and lack of effective experimental control over error variance. In contrast, there is a long history of research in psychology employing small-N designs that treats the individual participant as the replication unit, which addresses each of these failings, and which produces results that are robust and readily replicated. We illustrate the properties of small-N and large-N designs using a simulated paradigm investigating the stage structure of response times. Our simulations highlight the high power and inferential validity of the small-N design, in contrast to the lower power and inferential indeterminacy of the large-N design. We argue that, if psychology is to be a mature quantitative science, then its primary theoretical aim should be to investigate systematic, functional relationships as they are manifested at the individual participant level and that, wherever possible, it should use methods that are optimized to identify relationships of this kind.

Concepts: Scientific method, Sample size, Experiment, Statistical hypothesis testing, Theory, Logic, Graphic design, Statistical power


Inborn preference for palatable energy-dense food is thought to be an evolutionary adaptation. One way this preference manifests itself is through the control of visual attention. In the present study, we investigated how attentional capture is influenced by changes in naturally occurring goal-states, in this case desire for energy-dense foods (typically high fat and/or high sugar). We demonstrate that even when distractors are entirely irrelevant, participants were significantly more distracted by energy-dense foods compared with non-food objects and even low-energy foods. Additionally, we show the lability of these goal-states by having a separate set of participants consume a small amount of calorie-dense food prior to the task. The amount of distraction by the energy-dense food images in this case was significantly reduced and no different than distraction by images of low-energy foods and images of non-food objects. While naturally occurring goal-states can be difficult to ignore, they also are highly flexible.

Concepts: Psychology, Nutrition, Attention, Food, Flavor, Sugar, Distraction, Attention span


This article explains the foundational concepts of Bayesian data analysis using virtually no mathematical notation. Bayesian ideas already match your intuitions from everyday reasoning and from traditional data analysis. Simple examples of Bayesian data analysis are presented that illustrate how the information delivered by a Bayesian analysis can be directly interpreted. Bayesian approaches to null-value assessment are discussed. The article clarifies misconceptions about Bayesian methods that newcomers might have acquired elsewhere. We discuss prior distributions and explain how they are not a liability but an important asset. We discuss the relation of Bayesian data analysis to Bayesian models of mind, and we briefly discuss what methodological problems Bayesian data analysis is not meant to solve. After you have read this article, you should have a clear sense of how Bayesian data analysis works and the sort of information it delivers, and why that information is so intuitive and useful for drawing conclusions from data.

Concepts: Scientific method, Statistical inference, Bayesian inference, Bayesian probability, Bayes' theorem, Bayesian statistics, Naive Bayes classifier, Influence diagram


The retraction of an original article aims to ensure that readers are alerted to the fact that the findings are not trustworthy. However, the present research suggests that individuals still believe in the findings of an article even though they were later told that the data were fabricated and that the article was retracted. Participants in a debriefing condition and a no-debriefing condition learned about the scientific finding of an empirical article, whereas participants in a control condition did not. Afterward, participants in the debriefing condition were told that the article had been retracted because of fabricated data. Results showed that participants in the debriefing condition were less likely to believe in the findings than participants in the no-debriefing condition but were more likely to believe in the findings than participants in the control condition, suggesting that individuals do adjust their beliefs in the perceived truth of a scientific finding after debriefing-but insufficiently. Mediational analyses revealed that the availability of generated causal arguments underlies belief perseverance. These results suggest that a retraction note of an empirical article in a scientific journal is not sufficient to ensure that readers of the original article no longer believe in the article’s conclusions.

Concepts: Present, Scientific method, Critical thinking, Belief, Truth, Epistemology, Science, Fact


Co-speech gestures have been shown to interact with working memory (WM). However, no study has investigated whether there are individual differences in the effect of gestures on WM. Combining a novel gesture/no-gesture task and an operation span task, we examined the differences in WM accuracy between individuals who gestured and individuals who did not gesture in relation to their WM capacity. Our results showed individual differences in the gesture effect on WM. Specifically, only individuals with low WM capacity showed a reduced WM accuracy when they did not gesture. Individuals with low WM capacity who did gesture, as well as high-capacity individuals (irrespective of whether they gestured or not), did not show the effect. Our findings show that the interaction between co-speech gestures and WM is affected by an individual’s WM load.

Concepts: Gesture, Gestures


The role of inhibition in the task-switching process has received increased empirical and theoretical attention in the literature on cognitive control. Many accounts have suggested that inhibition occurs when a conflict must be resolved-for example, when a target stimulus contains features of more than one task. In the two experiments reported here, we used variants of backward inhibition, or N - 2 repetition, designs to examine (1) whether inhibition occurs in the absence of conflict at the stimulus or response level, (2) when in the task-switching process such inhibition may occur, and (3) the potential consequences of inhibition. In Experiment 1, we demonstrate that neither stimulus- nor response-level conflict is necessary for inhibition to occur, while the results of Experiment 2 suggest that inhibition may be associated with a reduction of proactive interference (PI) from a previously performed task. Evidence of inhibition and the reduction of PI both occurred at the task-set level. However, inhibition of specific stimulus values can also occur, but this is clearly separable from task-set inhibition. Both experiments also provided evidence that task-set inhibition can be applied at the time of the new task cue, as opposed to at the onset of the target or at the response stage of the trial. Taken together, the results from these experiments provide insight into when and where in the task-switching process inhibition may occur, as well as into the potential functional benefits that inhibition of task sets may provide.

Concepts: Scientific method, Economics, Science, Research, Empiricism, Experiment, Theory, Interference theory


In memory-based decision making, people often rely on simple heuristics such as take-the-best (TTB; Gigerenzer & Goldstein, Psychological Review, 103, 650-669, 1996), which processes information about the alternatives sequentially and stops processing as soon as a decision can be made. In this article, we examine the memory processes associated with TTB-in particular, to what degree the selective memory retrieval of relevant information required by TTB is accompanied by automatic activation of associated but irrelevant information. To address this question, we studied the fan effect (Anderson, Cognitive Psychology, 6, 451-474, 1974), which is assumed to arise from automatic spread of activation, in inferences from memory. Participants were instructed to use TTB when making decisions about objects on the basis of previously memorized attribute information. Both the number of attributes required by TTB and the number of attributes associated with an object (i.e., fan level) were manipulated. As it turned out, response times and the correct execution of TTB were a function not only of the number of required attributes, but also of the number of associated attributes. This suggests that information that TTB “ignores” is nevertheless activated in memory.

Concepts: Psychology, Decision making, Cognitive psychology, Cognition, Memory, Logic, Reasoning, Heuristic


Differences in the psychological capacities of closely related species are likely due to differences in their brains. Here, we review neuroanatomical comparisons between hominids (i.e., great apes and humans) and their closest living relatives, the hylobatids (i.e., small apes). We report the differences in quantitative, as well as qualitative, neural characteristics on the basis of 19 comparative studies that each included representatives of all hominid genera and at least one genus of hylobatid. The current data are patchy, based on a small number of hylobatids and few neuroanatomical features. Yet a systematic interspecies comparison could help reduce the neuroanatomical search space for the neural correlates underlying psychological abilities restricted to hominids. We illustrate the potential power of this approach by discussing the neural features of visual self-recognition.

Concepts: Human, Primate, Hominidae, Chimpanzee, Gorilla, Ape, Bonobo, Catarrhini


Working memory (WM) and empathy are core issues in cognitive and social science, respectively. However, no study so far has explored the relationship between these two constructs. Considering that empathy takes place based on the others' observed experiences, which requires extracting the observed dynamic scene into WM and forming a coherent representation, we hypothesized that a sub-type of WM capacity, i.e., WM for biological movements (BM), should predict one’s empathy level. Therefore, WM capacity was measured for three distinct types of stimuli in a change detection task: BM of human beings (BM; Experiment 1), movements of rectangles (Experiment 2), and static colors (Experiment 3). The first two stimuli were dynamic and shared one WM buffer which differed from the WM buffer for colors; yet only the BM conveyed social information. We found that BM-WM capacity was positively correlated with both cognitive and emotional empathy, with no such correlations for WM capacity of movements of rectangles or of colors. Thus, the current study is the first to provide evidence linking a specific buffer of WM and empathy, and highlights the necessity for considering different WM capacities in future social and clinical research.

Concepts: Scientific method, Psychology, Cognitive psychology, Cognition, Science, Empiricism, Hypothesis, Empathy


Words are characterized by a variety of lexical and psychological properties, such as their part of speech, word-frequency, concreteness, or affectivity. In this study, we examine how these properties relate to a word’s connectivity in the mental lexicon, the structure containing a person’s knowledge of words. In particular, we examine the extent to which these properties display assortative mixing, that is, the extent to which words in the lexicon are more likely to be connected to words that share these properties. We investigated three types of word properties: 1) subjective word covariates: valence, dominance, arousal, and concreteness; 2) lexical information: part of speech; and 3) distributional word properties: age-of-acquisition, word frequency, and contextual diversity. We assessed which of these factors exhibit assortativity using a word association task, where the probability of producing a certain response to a cue is a measure of the associative strength between the cue and response in the mental lexicon. Our results show that the extent to which these aspects exhibit assortativity varies considerably, with a high cue-response correspondence on valence, dominance, arousal, concreteness, and part of speech, indicating that these factors correspond to the words people deem as related. In contrast, we find that cues and responses show only little correspondence on word frequency, contextual diversity, and age-of-acquisition, indicating that, compared to subjective and lexical word covariates, distributional properties exhibit only little assortativity in the mental lexicon. Possible theoretical accounts and implications of these findings are discussed.

Concepts: Language, Word, Lexeme, Lexicon, Vocabulary, Lexical item, Lexical units