Negative Results in European Psychology Journals

Martin Rachev Vasilev


Psychologists have long speculated that the research literature is largely dominated by positive findings, but yet there is little data to justify these speculations. The present study investigates the extent to which negative findings exist in the literature by reviewing articles published in five European psychology journals. While no temporal change was observed, the results indicate that almost all (95.4%) articles published in 2001, 2006 and 2011 found support for at least one tested hypothesis. Moreover, a sizable number (73%) of papers found support for all tested hypotheses. It is argued that the lack of negative findings can have a detrimental effect on the ability to systemize scientific knowledge, the way science is practiced, and the rate of replications in psychology. Publishing positive findings may be very important for making progress in our field, but negative findings are also crucial for maintaining its scientific integrity. When we base our conclusions on results that support our predictions and ignore data to the contrary, we run the risk of creating a biased view of reality that gives us little confidence in the validity and applicability of our findings.


negative results; publication bias; file-drawer problem; European journals; psychological research

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