The toothbrush problem

APS President Walter Mischel in the APS Observer has a nice discussion of the “toothbrush problem” in psychology, (it’s unclear who was the person who coined the name). Basically no self-respecting scientist would use someone else’s model. This leads to lots of pet models and little attempt to integrate knowledge. In his conclusions Mischel says “for psychological research to flourish and develop into an increasingly cumulative basic science, there are some fundamental requirements. It’s essential to develop and use common shared tools and a common language, so that replication, and building on solid work becomes accepted practice and is valued.” It is also essential, he says, to publish failures to replicate. Wise words but hard to implement, given the usefulness of having one’s own toothbrush in terms of career. but also given the way that journals work. Nevertheless it is nice to see the issue given such a high profile discussion.


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