Biased Evaluation of Abstracts Depending on Topic and Conclusion: Further Evidence of a Confirmation Bias Within Scientific Psychology
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The present paper investigated whether academic psychologists show a tendency to rate the quality and appropriateness of scientific studies more favorably when results and conclusions are consistent with their own prior beliefs (i.e., confirmation bias). In an online experiment, 711 psychologists completed a questionnaire (e.g., about their belief in astrology) and evaluated research that was presented in form of a short abstract in which 40 different behaviors (e.g., alcohol consumption, willingness to share money) have been tried to be predicted. The research to be evaluated varied on three dimensions which were all manipulated between subjects: (1) the predictors of the 40 behaviors (either Big Five or astrological factors), (2) the methodological quality of the study (low, medium, high), and (3) the results and subsequent conclusion of the study (confirmation or disconfirmation of the hypotheses). Factor-analyzed scores of participants’ ratings on 8 scales, resulting in 2 factors termed quality and appropriateness, served as dependent measures. The main result of the study is a two-way interaction: Psychologists tended to evaluate results qualitatively higher when they conformed to their own prior expectations, as in this case, when astrological hypotheses were disconfirmed.