nalini ambady

This week, Hidden Brain looks at the “replication crisis” through zooming in on one seminal paper that was the focus of two replication efforts: one succeeded in replicating the original finding, the other failed.

The original study, authored by Margaret Shih, Todd Pittinsky, and Nalini Ambady in 1999, found that Asian women performed worse on a math test when primed to think about their female identity, but better when they were primed to think about their Asian identity.

Nearly two decades later, Nosek and the Reproducibility Project noticed that this study, which by then had been widely disseminated in textbooks and psychology education, had never itself been replicated. So he assigned two teams to run it again—one in Georgia and the other in California. They came back with different results. And this gets at one of the biggest questions explored in this episode: when scientific studies come to different conclusions, what should we think of as true?

When Great Minds Think Unlike: Inside Science’s ‘Replication Crisis’

Illustration: Daniel Fishel for NPR