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“Reversals in psychology”

Gavin Leech writes:

After reading your blog for about 6 years straight, I found I’d passively acquired a long list of psychology results to watch out for. But no one seems to have collated them, so I have, here.

My friends, hypercritical nerds all, were on average surprised by 4 of these, so – despite your work – the struggle continues.

I’ve not tried to evaluate all the claims at the above post, so read at your own risk! And then we need other lists: Reversals in political science, Reversals in sociology, etc.

P.S. I wrote this post several months ago. Then it appeared today. Gavin Leech . . . the name rang a bell . . . it turns out he sent me another email just last week, on a completely different topic. Here’s Gavin:

We just put up a preprint on mask effects at scale. It uses the big Facebook survey (n=20M) to study population effects using self-reported wearing (instead of using government mask mandates as a proxy). We see a 25% reduction in R for a whole population masked, or 20% with average wearing levels.

A secondary result is that voluntary wearing was earlier and far greater than previously realised.

Here’s the Twitter explainer and here’s a moderately critical analysis from Rex Douglass.

I appreciate when people include links to critical takes of their work. It’s a kind of self-Stasi.


  1. Ariel Karlinsky says:

    This is terrific. Thank you Gavin.

  2. psyoskeptic says:

    That’s a pretty good list Gavin. I might have missed it but there’s not good evidence for bilingualism have general fundamental cognitive benefits, especially with respect to inhibitory mechanisms. See papers by Paap et al. (2015) and also Hilchey and Klein (2011).Hilchey & Klein have a lovely figure 2 that could serve as a source for good commentary on a statistical blog. They don’t do a conventional meta-analysis but do construct a good rational argument.

    • psyoskeptic says:

      I figured I’d put in the full references.

      Hilchey, M. D., & Klein, R. M. (2011). Are there bilingual advantages on nonlinguistic interference tasks? implications for the plasticity of executive control processes. Psychonomic Bulletin & Review, 18, 625-658. doi: 10.3758/s13423-011-0116-7
      Paap, K. R., Johnson, H. A., & Sawi, O. (2015). Bilingual advantages in executive functioning either do not exist or are restricted to very specific and undetermined circumstances. Cortex, 69, 265-278. doi: 10.1016/j.cortex.2015.04.014

  3. Martha (Smith) says:

    This is timely for me — not because I’ve recently been thinking about psychology reversals, but because I’ve been thinking about medical reversals — or perhaps medical beliefs that might warrant reversal.

    In case anyone is interested: This was prompted by my (new) primary care physician prescribing ergocalcitrol (AKA vitamin D2) rather than the more common vitamin D3. (I’m not sure what the goal is: whether to to decrease the risk of fractures, or to increase my vitamin D blood level, or both — or something else). I haven’t found any strong evidence for preferring D2 — but there seem to be hints of possibly serious side effects of D2 — and one source said that there hasn’t really been much study of this in geriatric patients (like me). (If anyone else is interested in this topic of D2 vs D3, I can provide some references.)

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