I went to Psychonomics in New Orleans!

Last year I was in New Orleans to indulge in hot sauce and beignets. This year, as part of a conceptual replication, I went there to indulge in psychological science. Below are the methodological details of that replication.

Dec 30, 2018
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Last year I was in New Orleans to indulge in hot sauce and beignets. This year, as part of a conceptual replication, I went there to indulge in psychological science. Below are the methodological details of that replication.

Fitting in

I wondered how I’d fit in—it being my first conference as a psychology editor at Nature Communications, not a researcher. I quickly realized this was a nonissue when I attended the keynote on replicability, reminding me that psychological scientists and I still have a lot in common. We continue to care about and work towards improving approaches to conducting and sharing research, and have burning questions about whether the reception will be open-bar. 

The keynote also reminded me of early on in grad school when the reproducible science alarms really started blaring, and the field began to change. First, in a small departmental seminar, Geoff Cumming showed us the dance of the p-values, making everyone there question everything they’d ever known. Then, in journal club we read the Simmons et al. (2011) paper which “proved,” by applying researcher degrees of freedom, that listening to a Beatles song reverses aging—a finding that, if real, would have raised serious questions about why Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr don’t look like toddlers. 

During this shift in the field, I fluctuated in and out of pessimism, worried that eventually the alarm bells would fade into the background. We'd all stop listening, and go back to our unacceptable ways. Yet seven years later, prominent themes on these very concerns at a prestigious psychology conference, and journals echoing those concerns, show that we’re all still listening. 

Hypothesis testing

As a PhD and postdoc, Nature Communications was never on my radar as a place to submit my psychology papers, so I assumed others in the field were the same. I found support for this hypothesis by applying my confirmation bias to free-form conversations in which researchers spontaneously asked questions like “what is the journal?”, “is it about communication?”, “are you preying on my students? Get away from our poster or I’ll call the police.” 

Let me answer those questions. We are an interdisciplinary, broad scope, open access journal, publishing work across all areas of science. So no, it’s not about communication specifically, but our editors would consider papers on that theme—not unlike the work described in the collective memory symposium, where I heard talks on conversational remembering and collective future thought. And those are just a couple of the many intriguing lines of work at the conference that we’d be delighted to see submitted. Also, if you’re not a neuroscientist, don’t be concerned if you notice a high number of neuroimaging publications on our website. We want psychology work, regardless of the measure—unless of course you’re measuring the weight of subjects’ curtains to test their morality, or something like that. If you have questions about our interests, I would be delighted to chat with you one on one at a conference (follow our posts on Twitter to hear about editor attendance), or as part of a lab visit. Please reach out!

As for whether we are preying on your students, an honest answer would require a discussion of our respective definitions of “preying.” If yours is “hoping for students’ good work and therefore opening a dialogue about it,” then yes, we are. 

Supplementary

I went to a cooking demonstration where a tyrannical chef criticized the pronunciation of people’s last names and pointed out when anyone was headed to use the bathroom. We made jambalaya, gumbo, pralines, bread pudding, and maybe one other thing. We were given the recipes then told that none of the instructions actually mattered. Please do not adopt that mindset when reading our editorial policies. 

Brittany Cardwell

Associate Editor, Nature Communications

Brittany joined Nature Communications in June, 2018. She received her PhD in psychology from Victoria University of Wellington, where she studied memory distortions and false beliefs. During her postdoc at the University of Otago, Brittany primarily investigated how existential beliefs and perceptions of truth affect people’s judgments and emotions. Brittany handles psychology manuscripts and is located in the New York office.

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