Multidimensional signals and analytic flexibility: Estimating degrees of freedom in human speech analyses

Coretta, Stefano, Casillas, Joseph V, Roessig, Simon, Franke, Michael, Ahn, Byron, Al-Hoorie, Ali H., Al-Tamimi, Jalal, Alotaibi, Najd E., AlShakhori, Mohammed K. et al (2023) Multidimensional signals and analytic flexibility: Estimating degrees of freedom in human speech analyses. Advances in Methods and Practices in Psychological Sciences, 6 (3). ISSN 2515-2459

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Recent empirical studies have highlighted the large degree of analytic flexibility in data analysis which can lead to substantially different conclusions based on the same data set. Thus, researchers have expressed their concerns that these researcher degrees of freedom might facilitate bias and can lead to claims that do not stand the test of time. Even greater flexibility is to be expected in fields in which the primary data lend themselves to a variety of possible operationalizations. The multidimensional, temporally extended nature of speech constitutes an ideal testing ground for assessing the variability in analytic approaches, which derives not only from aspects of statistical modeling, but also from decisions regarding the quantification of the measured behavior. In the present study, we gave the same speech production data set to 46 teams of researchers and asked them to answer the same research question, resulting insubstantial variability in reported effect sizes and their interpretation. Using Bayesian meta-analytic tools, we further find little to no evidence that the observed variability can be explained by analysts’ prior beliefs, expertise or the perceived quality of their analyses. In light of this idiosyncratic variability, we recommend that researchers more transparently share details of their analysis, strengthen the link between theoretical construct and quantitative system and calibrate their (un)certainty in their conclusions.

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