The veracity of substantive research claims hinges on the way experimental data are collected and analyzed. In this article, we discuss an uncomfortable fact that threatens the core of psychology’s academic enterprise: almost without exception, psychologists do not commit themselves to a method of data analysis before they see the actual data. It then becomes tempting to fine tune the analysis to the data in order to obtain a desired result—a procedure that invalidates the interpretation of the common statistical tests. The extent of the fine tuning varies widely across experiments and experimenters but is almost impossible for reviewers and readers to gauge. To remedy the situation, we propose that researchers preregister their studies and indicate in advance the analyses they intend to conduct. Only these analyses deserve the label “confirmatory,” and only for these analyses are the common statistical tests valid. Other analyses can be carried out but these should be labeled “exploratory.” We illustrate our proposal with a confirmatory replication attempt of a study on extrasensory perception.
An academic scientist’s professional success depends on publishing. Publishing norms emphasize novel, positive results. As such, disciplinary incentives encourage design, analysis, and reporting decisions that elicit positive results and ignore negative results. Prior reports demonstrate how these incentives inflate the rate of false effects in published science. When incentives favor novelty over replication, false results persist in the literature unchallenged, reducing efficiency in knowledge accumulation. Previous suggestions to address this problem are unlikely to be effective. For example, a journal of negative results publishes otherwise unpublishable reports. This enshrines the low status of the journal and its content. The persistence of false findings can be meliorated with strategies that make the fundamental but abstract accuracy motive—getting it right—competitive with the more tangible and concrete incentive—getting it published. This article develops strategies for improving scientific practices and knowledge accumulation that account for ordinary human motivations and biases.