Meta-Psychology: A new discipline and a new journal (draft)

Ulrich Schimmack and Rickard Carlsson

Psychology is a relatively young science that is just over 100 years old.  During its 100 years if existence, it has seen major changes in the way psychologists study the mind and behavior.  The first laboratories used a mix of methods and studied a broad range of topics. In the 1950s, behaviorism started to dominate psychology with studies of animal behavior. Then cognitive psychology took over and computerized studies with reaction time tasks started to dominate. In the 1990s, neuroscience took off and no top ranked psychology department can function without one or more MRI magnets. Theoretical perspectives have also seen major changes.  In the 1960s, personality traits were declared non-existent. In the 1980, twin studies were used to argue that everything is highly heritable, and nowadays gene-environment interactions and epigenetics are dominating theoretical perspectives on the nature-nurture debate. These shifts in methods and perspectives are often called paradigm shifts.

It is hard to keep up with all of these paradigm shifts in a young science like psychology. Moreover, many psychology researchers are busy just keeping up with developments in their paradigm. However, the pursuit of advancing research within a paradigm can be costly for researchers and a science as a whole because this research may become obsolete after a paradigm shift. One senior psychologist once expressed regret that he was a prisoner of a paradigm. To avoid a similar fate, it is helpful to have a broader perspective of developments in the field and to understand how progress in one area of psychology fits into the broader goal of understanding humans’ minds and behaviors.  This is the aim of meta-psychology.  Meta-psychology is the scientific investigation of psychology as a science.  It questions the basic assumptions that underpin research paradigm and monitors the progress of psychological science as a whole.

Why we Need a Meta-Psychology Journal 

Most scientific journals focus on publishing original research articles or review articles (meta-analyses) of studies on a particular topic.  This makes it difficult to publish meta-psychological articles.  As publishing in peer-reviewed journals is used to evaluate researchers, few researches dedicated time and energy to meta-psychology and those that did often had difficulties finding an outlet for their work.

In 2006, Ed Diener created Perspectives on Psychological Science (PPS) published by the Association for Psychological Science.  The journal aims to publish an “eclectic mix of provocative reports and articles, including broad integrative reviews, overviews of research programs, meta-analyses, theoretical statements, and articles on topics such as the philosophy of science, opinion pieces about major issues in the field, autobiographical reflections of senior members of the field, and even occasional humorous essays and sketches”   Not all of the articles in PPS are meta-psychology. However, PPS created a home for meta-psychological articles.  We carefully examined articles in PPS to identify content areas of meta-psychology.

We believe that MP can fulfill an important role in the growing number of psychology journals.  Most important, PPS can only publish a small number of articles.  For profit journals like PPS pride themselves on their high rejection rates.  We believe that high rejection rates create a problem and give editors and reviewers too much power to shape the scientific discourse and direction of psychology.  The power of editors is itself an important topic in meta-psychology.  In contrast to PPS, MP is an online journal with no strict page limits.  We will let the quality of published articles rather than rejection rates determine the prestige of our journal.

PPS is a for profit journal and published content is hidden behind paywalls. We think this is a major problem and does not serve the interest of scientists.  All articles published in MP will be open access.  One problem with some open access journals is that they charge high fees for authors to get their work published.  This gives authors from rich countries with grants a competitive advantage. MP will not charge any fees.

In short, while we appreciate the contribution PPS has made to the development of meta-psychology, we see MP as a modern journal that meets the need of psychology as a science for a journal that is dedicated to publishing meta-psychological articles without high rejection rates and without high costs to authors and readers.

Content Areas of Meta-Psychology 

1. Critical reflections on the process of data collection.

1.1.  Sampling

Amazon’s Mechanical Turk: A New Source of Inexpensive, Yet High-Quality, Data?
By: Buhrmester, Michael; Kwang, Tracy; Gosling, Samuel D.
PERSPECTIVES ON PSYCHOLOGICAL SCIENCE   Volume: 6   Issue: 1   Pages: 3-5   Published: JAN 2011

1.2.  Experimental Paradigms

Using Smartphones to Collect Behavioral Data in Psychological Science: Opportunities, Practical Considerations, and Challenges
By: Harari, Gabriella M.; Lane, Nicholas D.; Wang, Rui; et al.
PERSPECTIVES ON PSYCHOLOGICAL SCIENCE   Volume: 11   Issue: 6   Pages: 838-854   Published: NOV 2016

1.3. Validity

What Do Implicit Measures Tell Us? Scrutinizing the Validity of Three Common Assumptions
By: Gawronski, Bertram; Lebel, Etienne P.; Peters, Kurt R.
PERSPECTIVES ON PSYCHOLOGICAL SCIENCE   Volume: 2   Issue: 2   Pages: 181-193   Published: JUN 2007

 

2.  Critical reflections on statistical methods / tutorials on best practices

2.1.  Philosophy of Statistics

Bayesian Versus Orthodox Statistics: Which Side Are You On?
By: Dienes, Zoltan
PERSPECTIVES ON PSYCHOLOGICAL SCIENCE   Volume: 6   Issue: 3   Pages: 274-290   Published: MAY 2011

2.2. Tutorials

Sailing From the Seas of Chaos Into the Corridor of Stability Practical Recommendations to Increase the Informational Value of Studies
By: Lakens, Daniel; Evers, Ellen R. K.
PERSPECTIVES ON PSYCHOLOGICAL SCIENCE   Volume: 9   Issue: 3   Pages: 278-292   Published: MAY 2014

3. Critical reflections on published results / replicability

3.1.  Fraud

Scientific Misconduct and the Myth of Self-Correction in Science
By: Stroebe, Wolfgang; Postmes, Tom; Spears, Russell
PERSPECTIVES ON PSYCHOLOGICAL SCIENCE   Volume: 7   Issue: 6   Pages: 670-688   Published: NOV 2012

3.2. Publication Bias

Puzzlingly High Correlations in fMRI Studies of Emotion, Personality, and Social Cognition
By: Vul, Edward; Harris, Christine; Winkielman, Piotr; et al.
PERSPECTIVES ON PSYCHOLOGICAL SCIENCE   Volume: 4   Issue: 3   Pages: 274-290   Published: MAY 2009

3.3. Quality of Peer-Review

The Air We Breathe: A Critical Look at Practices and Alternatives in the Peer-Review Process
By: Suls, Jerry; Martin, Rene
PERSPECTIVES ON PSYCHOLOGICAL SCIENCE   Volume: 4   Issue: 1   Pages: 40-50   Published: JAN 2009

4. Critical reflections on Paradigms and Paradigm Shifts

4.1  History

Sexual Orientation Differences as Deficits: Science and Stigma in the History of American Psychology
By: Herek, Gregory M.
PERSPECTIVES ON PSYCHOLOGICAL SCIENCE   Volume: 5   Issue: 6   Pages: 693-699   Published: NOV 2010

4.2. Topics

Domain Denigration and Process Preference in Academic Psychology
By: Rozin, Paul
PERSPECTIVES ON PSYCHOLOGICAL SCIENCE   Volume: 1   Issue: 4   Pages: 365-376   Published: DEC 2006

4.3 Incentives

Giving Credit Where Credit’s Due: Why It’s So Hard to Do in Psychological Science
By: Simonton, Dean Keith
PERSPECTIVES ON PSYCHOLOGICAL SCIENCE   Volume: 11   Issue: 6   Pages: 888-892   Published: NOV 2016

4.5 Politics

Political Diversity in Social and Personality Psychology
By: Inbar, Yoel; Lammers, Joris
PERSPECTIVES ON PSYCHOLOGICAL SCIENCE   Volume: 7   Issue: 5   Pages: 496-503   Published: SEP 2012

4.4. Paradigms

Why the Cognitive Approach in Psychology Would Profit From a Functional Approach and Vice Versa
By: De Houwer, Jan
PERSPECTIVES ON PSYCHOLOGICAL SCIENCE   Volume: 6   Issue: 2   Pages: 202-209   Published: MAR 2011

5. Critical reflections on teaching and dissemination of research

5.1  Teaching

Teaching Replication
By: Frank, Michael C.; Saxe, Rebecca
PERSPECTIVES ON PSYCHOLOGICAL SCIENCE   Volume: 7   Issue: 6   Pages: 600-604   Published: NOV 2012

5.2. Coverage of research in textbooks

N.A.

5.2  Coverage of psychology in popular books

N.A.

5.3  Popular Media Coverage of Psychology

N.A.

5.4. Social Media and Psychology

N.A.

 

Vision and Impact Statement

Currently PPS ranks number 7 out of all psychology journals with an Impact Factor of 6.08. The broad appeal of meta-psychology accounts for this relatively high impact factor. We believe that many articles published in MP will also achieve high citation rates, but we do not compete for the highest ranking.  A journal that publishes only 1 article a year, will get a higher ratio of citations per article than a journal that publishes 10 articles a year.  We recognize that it is difficult to predict which articles will become citation classics and we rather publish one gem and nine so-so articles than miss out on publishing the gem. We anticipate that MP will publish many gems that PPS rejected and we will be happy to give these articles a home.

This does not mean, MP will publish everything. We will harness the wisdom of crowds and we encourage authors to share their manuscripts on pre-publication sites or on social media for critical commentary.  In addition, reviewers will help authors to improve their manuscript, while authors can be assured that investing in major revisions will be rewarded with a better publication rather than an ultimate rejection that requires further changes to please editors at another journal.

 

 

 

 

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5 thoughts on “Meta-Psychology: A new discipline and a new journal (draft)

    1. Point well taken. Being 100 years old is no reason to publish shoddy results, but some deeper problems have something to do with the subject matter. Studying human minds creates challenges that are a bit different from those in the natural sciences.

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  1. Interesting initiative. However, I think there are more journals devoted to the investigation of Psychology as a science. Wouldn’t you count journals like Theory & Psychology and History of Psychology as Meta-Psychology?

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    1. Yes. I would count them, but they have had no impact on the recent debates about replicability in psychology. Maybe these journals are missing out on an opportunity. If they publish relevant articles, they need to advertise them more aggressively on social media.

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      1. That’s true, the authors who publish there could do more to address the concerns and the people in the replication debate. So, as a first modest attempt to do that: Theory & Psychology has over the years published a number of articles about NHST and about measurement in psychology that I think are very relevant for the present debate.

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