Researcher degrees of freedom in phonetic research

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Description: The results of published research critically depend on methodological deci-sions that have been made during data analysis. These so-called “researcher degrees of freedom” (Simmons, Nelson, & Simonsohn, 2011) can affect the results and the conclusions researcher draw from it. It is argued that phonetic research faces a large number of researcher degrees of freedom due to its scientific object - speech - being inherently multidimensional and exhibiting complex interactions between multiple covariates. A Type-I error simulation is presented that demonstrates the severe inflation of false positives when exploring researcher degrees of freedom. It is argued that combined with common cognitive fallacies, exploitation of researcher degrees of freedom introduces strong bias and poses a serious challenge to quantitative phonetics as an empirical science. This paper discusses potential remedies for this problem including adjusting the threshold for significance; drawing a clear line between confirmatory and exploratory analyses via preregistration; open, honest and transparent practices in communicating data analytical decisions; and direct replications.

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