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Other recent successful ideas in psychology are also imbued with this ideology. Take mindset-based interventions, which are designed to shift people’s mindsets from ‘fixed’ (‘I failed the test – I’m just stupid’) to ‘growing’ (‘I’ll do better next time if I work harder ”). “For 30 years, my research has shown that the point of view you take for yourself profoundly affects the way you lead your life, ”said Carol Dweck, the originator of the idea and professor at Stanford, in her book“ Mindset: The New Psychology of Success ”(ideas she echoed in a TED talk that has been viewed over 12.5 million times).

Perhaps best known is the Implicit Association Test, which claims to be able to measure one’s level of implicit (or unconscious) bias via a brief computer test that involves comparing reaction time to different stimuli. Since the creators of the test also claimed that implicit biases can go a long way in explaining persistent gaps in racial discrimination in the United States, the computer test is now one of the most common features of contemporary diversity training.

Since these claims were first made, however, a full-blown replication crisis has hit psychology, meaning that when researchers attempt to redo previous studies, they often find much less impressive results or none at all. . It turns out that standard statistical methods long used by psychologists (and other scientists) can easily produce false positive results. About 50 percent of published results from experimental psychology failed to reproduce, and the subfield of social psychology – the basis of most research on social priming, implicit biases, and stereotypical threats – tends to fare even worse.

Studies claiming to offer simple cures for serious problems have been particularly affected. Mindset-focused interventions appear to be nowhere near as powerful as Professor Dweck originally announced: A major and well-constructed 2019 study in Nature found some effect, but only relatively small and uniquely. for the weaker students. (In a phone conversation, she pointed out that the Nature study centered on a fairly minimalist mindset intervention designed to be easily scalable and referred to larger effects found in previous studies based on more expensive and longer multi-session interventions involving highly qualified personnel.)

As for that fascinating social priming magic adopted by Dr. Bargh, like people who walk slower after seeing words with geriatric associations? “I don’t know of a reproducible outcome,” said Brian Nosek, psychologist and leading replication advocate, in 2019. “It’s not that there isn’t, but I can’t name it. ” The few social priming effects that have survived this scrutiny tend to be weak, inconsistent, and not necessarily relevant outside of lab environments.

(In a series of emails, Dr Bargh has argued, as he has done elsewhere, that his domain’s replication tribulations have been overstated and highlighted some of the positive results.)

The implicit association test experienced similar difficulties. It is still often a part of daily diversity trainings, but its creators have long recognized that it is too noisy a test to be used to identify people who may engage in racist acts (which is a significant step back from their initial assertion).

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