In 2015, Science published the results of the first empirical attempt to estimate the reproducibility of psychology. One key finding was that out of 97 attempts to reproduce a significant result, only 36% of attempts succeeded.
This finding fueled debates about a replication crisis in psychology. However, there have been few detailed examinations of individual studies to examine why a particular result could be replicated or not. The main reason is probably that it is a daunting task to conduct detailed examinations of all studies. Another reason is that replication failures can be caused by several factors. Each study may have a different explanation. This means it is important to take an ideographic (study-centered) perspective.
The conclusions of these ideographic reviews will be used for a nomothetic research project that aims to predict actual replication outcomes on the basis of the statistical results reported in the original article. These predictions will only be accurate if the replication studies were close replications of the original study. Otherwise, differences between the original study and the replication study may explain why replication studies failed.
Summary of Original Article
The article “Loving Those Who Justify Inequality: The Effects of System Threat on Attraction to Women Who Embody Benevolent Sexist Ideals” is a Short Report in the journal Psychological Science. The single study article is based on Study 3 of a doctoral dissertation supervised by the senior author Steven J. Spencer.
The article has been cited 32 times and has not been cited in 2017 (but has one citation in 2018 so far).
The authors aim to provide further evidence for system-justification theory (Jost, Banaji, & Nosek, 2004). A standard experimental paradigm is to experimentally manipulate beliefs in the fairness of the existing political system. According to the theory, individuals are motivated to maintain positive views of the current system and will respond by threats to this belief in a defensive manner.
In this specific study, the authors predicted that male participants whose faith in the
political system was threatened would show greater romantic interest in women who embody benevolent sexist ideals than in women who do not embody these ideals.
The design of the study is a classic 2 x 2 design with system threat as between-subject factor and type of women (embody benevolent sexist ideals or not) as within-subject factor.
Stimuli were fake dating profiles. Dating profiles of women who embody benevolent sexist ideals were based on the three dimensions of benevolent sexism, vulnerable, pure, and ideal for making a men feel complete (Glick & Fiske, 1996). The other women were described as career oriented, party seeking, active in social causes, or athletic.
A total of 36 male students participated in the study.
The article reports a significant interaction effect, F(1, 34) =5.89. This interaction effect was due to a significant difference between the two groups in rating of women who embody benevolent sexist ideals, F(1,34) = 4.53.
The replication study was conducted in Germany.
It failed to replicate the significant interaction effect, F(1,68) = 0.08, p = .79.
The sample size of the original study was very small and the result was just significant. It is not surprising that a replication study failed to replicate this just significant result despite a somewhat larger sample size.