Confessions of a Replicator

I am a replicator. I have undertaken, and continue to undertake, close replications of the research of others, as well as my own. What is my motivation? (see, for a discussion of the perceived “psychology of the replicators”). I warn readers up front that my story is rather simple and boring.

I have been attending academic conferences since 1998, and one of things I enjoy most is sitting down with colleagues for cocktails and lively discussions. One topic of discussion always seems to be recently published, or about to be published, research. I have often asked, and been asked: “So, what do you think of that study?” That question can chart the course for many hours of debate. During one such discussion in Halifax (2012) I was talking with two colleagues about research on Attachment Theory and preferences for warm food options published in Psychological Science (Vess, 2012). We generally agreed with the notion that activating the attachment concerns of more anxiously attached individuals could make them feel “alone”, motivating them to seek out comfort (or warmth). At the same time I expressed some uncertainty regarding the methodological approach taken in the research. We all expressed our views, moved on to other topics, and eventually went our separate ways.

A little while later, when reflecting on this discussion, I felt that ideally it would be better for me to run the study to see if I could obtain the same pattern of results rather than simply voice my uncertainty regarding the manner in which the study was run. Why? My colleagues and I were essentially raising empirical questions about this research during our discussion, questions that should therefore be answered with data and not simply words. As the person raising many of these questions, I felt obliged to help answer them as best I can. I truly wanted to know if the results would replicate using the methods described by Vess, and the only way to find this out would be to collect additional data using these methods. With this data, I would be able to help answer, instead of only ask, this question: does the effect replicate? Working with Etienne LeBel, and with the input of the original researcher (Vess), we ran two large scale close replication studies of the original study 1 and published the results in Psychological Science (LeBel & Campbell, 2013).

So, what is my motivation as a replicator? When I feel some uncertainty about an idea, or methodological approach used to test an idea, I feel that data trump opinions. So I now devote some research effort to closely replicating published research findings, at the same time attempting to directly replicate my own research findings going forward when feasible.

Oh, and one other thing—somebody needs to do it, so why not me? For that matter, why not you?


LeBel, E. P., & Campbell, L. (2013). Heightened sensitivity to temperature cues in highly anxiously attached individuals: Real or elusive phenomenon? Psychological Science, 24, 2128-2120.

Vess, M (2012). Warm thoughts: Attachment anxiety and sensitivity to temperature cues. Psychological Science, 23, 472-474.