The role of replication in psychological science

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The replication or reproducibility crisis in psychological science has renewed attention to philosophical aspects of its methodology. I provide herein a new, functional account of the role of replication in a scientific discipline: to undercut the underdetermination of scientific hypotheses from data, typically by hypotheses that connect data with phenomena. These include hypotheses that concern sampling error, experimental control, and operationalization. How a scientific hypothesis could be underdetermined in one of these ways depends on a scientific discipline’s epistemic goals, theoretical development, material constraints, institutional context, and their interconnections. I illustrate how these apply to the case of psychological science. I then contrast this “bottom-up” account with “top-down” accounts, which assume that the role of replication in a particular science, such as psychology, must follow from a uniform role that it plays in science generally. Aside from avoiding unaddressed problems with top-down accounts, my bottom-up account also better explains the variability of importance of replication of various types across different scientific disciplines.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number23
JournalEuropean Journal for Philosophy of Science
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 8 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This research was partially supported by a Single Semester Leave from the University of Minnesota, and a Visiting Fellowship at the Center for Philosophy of Science at the University of Pittsburgh.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021, Springer Nature B.V.


  • Confirmation
  • Lakatos
  • Psychology
  • Replication
  • Reproducibility
  • Underdetermination


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