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Improving Psychological Science through Transparency and Openness: An Overview


The ability to independently verify and replicate observations made by other researchers is a hallmark of science. In this article, we provide an overview of recent discussions concerning replicability and best practices in mainstream psychology with an emphasis on the practical benefists to both researchers and the field as a whole. We first review challenges individual researchers face in producing research that is both publishable and reliable. We then suggest methods for producing more accurate research claims, such as transparently disclosing how results were obtained and analyzed, preregistering analysis plans, and publicly posting original data and materials. We also discuss ongoing changes at the institutional level to incentivize stronger research. These include officially recognizing open science practices at the journal level, disconnecting the publication decision from the results of a study, training students to conduct replications, and publishing replications. We conclude that these open science practices afford exciting low-cost opportunities to improve the quality of psychological science.

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  1. “Chance” here refers to fluctuating factors that are uncontrolled/unaccounted for in an experiment, as well as the sampling procedures used to obtain one particular subset of a population, as opposed to another. It does not signify that behavior itself is ultimately random or probabilistic. As Poincaré (1914/1952) observed, “Every phenomenon, however trifling it be, has a cause, and a mind infinitely powerful and infinitely well-informed concerning the laws of nature could have foreseen it. . . . Chance is only the measure of our ignorance” (p. 65). To say that a difference is “due to chance” is to say that, for unspecifiable reasons not involving systematic treatment, one’s sample is atypical of the population.

  2. Version control allows users to maintain a history of their files and to fall back to any previous version. This is useful in the case that one deletes material from a manuscript that should be later added back in, changes something in analytic code that accidentally breaks everything, or accidentally saves changes to the original raw data file. Version control eliminates the need for a cluttered folder full of files named “manuscript.docx,” “manuscript_final.docx,” and “manuscript_final2.docx.” In general, it not considered an open-science development, but it is a useful tool nonetheless.


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We thank Thomas Critchfield for valuable comments on a draft of this article.

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Correspondence to Andrew H. Hales.

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Hales, A.H., Wesselmann, E.D. & Hilgard, J. Improving Psychological Science through Transparency and Openness: An Overview. Perspect Behav Sci 42, 13–31 (2019).

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  • Replication
  • Reproducibility
  • Preregistration
  • Meta-analysis