Monday, March 14, 2016

So long, ego depletion. Is stereotype threat next?

For all the Freud-bashing that goes on these days, social psychologists sure do borrow a lot of psychodynamic terms. Ego depletion, indeed!

Michael Inzlicht's blog
"As someone who has been doing research for nearly twenty years, I now can’t help but wonder if the topics I chose to study are in fact real and robust. Have I been chasing puffs of smoke for all these years?
I have spent nearly a decade working on the concept of ego depletion, including work that is critical of the model used to explain the phenomenon. I have been rewarded for this work, and I am convinced that the main reason I get any invitations to speak at colloquia and brown-bags these days is because of this work. The problem is that ego depletion might not even be a thing. By now, many people are aware that a massive replication attempt of the basic ego depletion effect involving over 2,000 participants found nothing, nada, zip. Only three of the 24 participating labs found a significant effect, but even then, one of these found a significant result in the wrong direction!
There is a lot more to this registered replication than the main headline, and deep in my heart, it is hard to believe that fatigue is not a real phenomenon. I promise to get to it in a later post. But for now, we are left with a sobering question: If a large sample pre-registered study found absolutely nothing, how has the ego depletion effect been replicated and extended hundreds and hundreds of times? More sobering still: What other phenomena, which we now consider obviously real and true, will be revealed to be just as fragile?
As I said, I’m in a dark place. I feel like the ground is moving from underneath me and I no longer know what is real and what is not.
I edited an entire book on stereotype threat, I have signed my name to an amicus brief to the Supreme Court of the United States citing stereotype threat, yet now I am not as certain as I once was about the robustness of the effect. I feel like a traitor for having just written that; like, I’ve disrespected my parents, a no no according to Commandment number 5. But, a meta-analysis published just last year suggests that stereotype threat, at least for some populations and under some conditions, might not be so robust after all. P-curving some of the original papers is also not comforting. Now, stereotype threat is a politically charged topic and I really really want it to be real. [!!!] I think a lot more pain-staking work needs to be done before I stop believing (and rumor has it that another RRR of stereotype threat is in the works), but I would be lying if I said that doubts have not crept in."

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