Are Small Effects the Indispensable Foundation for a Cumulative Psychological Science? A Reply to Götz et al. (2022).

Maximillian A. Primbs*, Charlotte Rebecca Pennington, Daniël Lakens, Miguel Alejandro A. Silan, Dwayne S. N. Lieck, Patrick S. Forscher, Erin M. Buchanan, Samuel J. Westwood

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalLetter, comment or opinionpeer-review

Abstract

Götz et al. (2022) argue that small effects are “the indispensable foundation for a cumulative psychological science”. They support their argument by claiming that (i) psychology, like genetics, consists of complex phenomena explained by additive small effects, (ii) psychological research culture rewards large effects, which means small effects are being ignored, and (iii) small effects become meaningful at scale and over time. We rebut these claims with three objections: (i) the analogy between genetics and psychology is misleading, (ii) p-values are the main currency for publication in psychology, meaning that any biases in the literature are (currently) caused by a pressure to publish statistically significant results and not large effects, and (iii) claims regarding small effects as important and consequential must be supported by empirical evidence or, at least, a falsifiable line of reasoning. If accepted uncritically, we believe the arguments of Götz et al. (2022) could be used as a blanket justification for the importance of any and all ‘small’ effects, thereby undermining best practices in effect size interpretation. We end with guidance on evaluating effect sizes in relative, not absolute terms.
Original languageEnglish
JournalPerspectives on Psychological Science
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 30 Mar 2022

Keywords

  • effect sizes
  • small effects
  • benchmarks
  • practical significance
  • statistical inference

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