Exploratory and confirmatory analyses in sentence processing: A case study of number interference in German
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Description: Given the replication crisis in cognitive science, it is important to consider what researchers need to do in order to report results that are reliable. We consider three changes in current practice that have the potential to deliver more realistic and robust claims. First, the planned experiment should be divided up into two stages, an exploratory stage and a confirmatory stage. This clear separation allows the researcher to check whether any results found in the exploratory stage are robust. The second change is to carry out adequately powered studies. We show that this is imperative if we want to obtain realistic estimates of effects in psycholinguistics. The third change is to use Bayesian data-analytic methods rather than frequentist ones; the Bayesian framework allows us to focus on the best estimates we can obtain of the effect, rather than rejecting a strawman null. As a case study, we investigate number interference effects in German. Number feature interference is predicted by cue-based retrieval models of sentence processing (Van Dyke & Lewis, 2003; Vasishth & Lewis, 2006), but has shown inconsistent results. We show that by implementing the three changes mentioned, suggestive evidence emerges that is consistent with the predicted number interference effects.
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