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“Published estimates of group differences in multisensory integration are inflated”

Mike Beauchamp sends in the above picture of Buster (“so-named by my son because we adopted him as a stray kitten run over by a car and ‘all busted up'”) sends along this article (coauthored with John F. Magnotti) “examining how the usual suspects (small n, forking paths, etc.) had led our little sub-field of psychology/neuroscience, multisensory integration, astray.” The article begins:

A common measure of multisensory integration is the McGurk effect, an illusion in which incongruent auditory and visual speech are integrated to produce an entirely different percept. Published studies report that participants who differ in age, gender, culture, native language, or traits related to neurological or psychiatric disorders also differ in their susceptibility to the McGurk effect. These group-level differences are used as evidence for fundamental alterations in sensory processing between populations. Using empirical data and statistical simulations tested under a range of conditions, we show that published estimates of group differences in the McGurk effect are inflated when only statistically significant (p < 0.05) results are published [emphasis added]. With a sample size typical of published studies, a group difference of 10% would be reported as 31%. As a consequence of this inflation, follow-up studies often fail to replicate published reports of large between-group differences. Inaccurate estimates of effect sizes and replication failures are especially problematic in studies of clinical populations involving expensive and time-consuming interventions, such as training paradigms to improve sensory processing. Reducing effect size inflation and increasing replicability requires increasing the number of participants by an order of magnitude compared with current practice.

Type M error!

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