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On the scientific superiority of conceptual replications for scientific progress

  • Author(s): Crandall, CS
  • Sherman, JW
  • et al.

© 2015 There is considerable current debate about the need for replication in the science of social psychology. Most of the current discussion and approbation is centered on direct or exact replications, the attempt to conduct a study in a manner as close to the original as possible. We focus on the value of conceptual replications, the attempt to test the same theoretical process as an existing study, but that uses methods that vary in some way from the previous study. The tension between the two kinds of replication is a tension of values—exact replications value confidence in operationalizations; their requirement tends to favor the status quo. Conceptual replications value confidence in theory; their use tends to favor rapid progress over ferreting out error. We describe the many ways in which conceptual replications can be superior to direct replications. We further argue that the social system of science is quite robust to these threats and is self-correcting.

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