Why replication is funny

A sadly undervalued fact about replication, easily missed amid the clamour over expertise (Strack, 2017), flair (Baumeister, 2016), contextual variability (Crandall & Sherman, 2016), bullying (Schnall, 2014), tone (Chambers, 2017), and of course the “improvement of psychological science”, is that replication is funny. As a case in point, consider this short video. It was prepared by Eric-Jan Wagenmakers, Titia Beek, and Laura Dijkhoff for their replication of a classic study of a ‘facial feedback’ effect (Strack, Martin, & Stepper, 1988; Wagenmakers et al., 2016). The original experiment had purportedly shown that people holding a pen between their teeth (which produces a smile) rate cartoons on average funnier than people holding a pen between their lips (which produces a pout). The facial expression enhances the emotion, even when people do not realise they’re smiling.

Wagenmakers and colleagues had this experiment replicated not once, but seventeen times, by different labs. To show those seventeen labs how to conduct the experiment and make sure that all replications were close copies, Wagenmakers’ team created an instruction video. They made a mock-up of a cubicle, furnished it with the experimental materials, and filmed two people as they enacted the procedure of the experiment.

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