What Counts As Evidence in Social Science?

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Flickr Duncan Hull (CC)

There’s a huge debate going on in social science right now. The question is simple, and strikes near the heart of all research: What counts as solid evidence?

The answer matters because many disciplines are currently in the midst of a “replication crisis” where even textbook studies aren’t holding up against rigorous retesting. The list includes: ego depletion, the idea that willpower is a finite resource; the facial feedback hypothesis, which suggested if we activate muscles used in smiling, we become happier; and many, many more.

Scientists are now figuring out how to right the ship, to ensure scientific studies published today won’t be laughed at in a few years.

One of the thorniest issues on this question is statistical significance. It’s one of the most influential metrics to determine whether a result is published in a scientific journal.

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