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Underpowered samples, false negatives, and unconscious learning

Vadillo, MA; Konstantinidis, E; Shanks, DR; (2016) Underpowered samples, false negatives, and unconscious learning. Psychonomic Bulletin & Review , 23 (1) pp. 87-102. 10.3758/s13423-015-0892-6. Green open access

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Abstract

The scientific community has witnessed growing concern about the high rate of false positives and unreliable results within the psychological literature, but the harmful impact of false negatives has been largely ignored. False negatives are particularly concerning in research areas where demonstrating the absence of an effect is crucial, such as studies of unconscious or implicit processing. Research on implicit processes seeks evidence of above-chance performance on some implicit behavioral measure at the same time as chance-level performance (that is, a null result) on an explicit measure of awareness. A systematic review of 73 studies of contextual cuing, a popular implicit learning paradigm, involving 181 statistical analyses of awareness tests, reveals how underpowered studies can lead to failure to reject a false null hypothesis. Among the studies that reported sufficient information, the meta-analytic effect size across awareness tests was d z = 0.31 (95 % CI 0.24-0.37), showing that participants' learning in these experiments was conscious. The unusually large number of positive results in this literature cannot be explained by selective publication. Instead, our analyses demonstrate that these tests are typically insensitive and underpowered to detect medium to small, but true, effects in awareness tests. These findings challenge a widespread and theoretically important claim about the extent of unconscious human cognition.

Type: Article
Title: Underpowered samples, false negatives, and unconscious learning
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
DOI: 10.3758/s13423-015-0892-6
Publisher version: http://dx.doi.org/10.3758/s13423-015-0892-6
Language: English
Additional information: © The Author(s) 2015. Open Access: This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons license, and indicate if changes were made.
Keywords: Contextualcuing, False negatives, Implicit learning, Null hypothesis Significance testing, Statistical power
UCL classification: UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences > Div of Psychology and Lang Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences > Div of Psychology and Lang Sciences > Experimental Psychology
URI: http://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/1472501
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