Are Small Effects the Indispensable Foundation for a Cumulative Psychological Science? A Reply to Götz et al. (2022)


In the January 2022 issue of Perspectives, Götz et al. argued that small effects are “the indispensable foundation for a cumulative psychological science.” They supported their argument by claiming that (a) psychology, like genetics, consists of complex phenomena explained by additive small effects; (b) psychological-research culture rewards large effects, which means small effects are being ignored; and (c) small effects become meaningful at scale and over time. We rebut these claims with three objections: First, the analogy between genetics and psychology is misleading; second, p values are the main currency for publication in psychology, meaning that any biases in the literature are (currently) caused by pressure to publish statistically significant results and not large effects; and third, claims regarding small effects as important and consequential must be supported by empirical evidence or, at least, a falsifiable line of reasoning. If accepted uncritically, we believe the arguments of Götz et al. could be used as a blanket justification for the importance of any and all “small” effects, thereby undermining best practices in effect-size interpretation. We end with guidance on evaluating effect sizes in relative, not absolute, terms.

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Divisions: College of Health & Life Sciences > Aston Institute of Health & Neurodevelopment (AIHN)
College of Health & Life Sciences
College of Health & Life Sciences > School of Psychology
Additional Information: © The Author(s) 2022. This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License ( which permits any use, reproduction and distribution of the work without further permission provided the original work is attributed as specified on the SAGE and Open Access pages ( Funding Information: FundingThis work was funded by the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research VIDI Grant 452-17-013 (to D. Lakens).
Uncontrolled Keywords: effect sizes,small effects,benchmarks,practical significance,statistical inference
Publication ISSN: 1745-6916
Last Modified: 18 Apr 2024 07:17
Date Deposited: 08 Apr 2022 14:33
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Related URLs: https://journal ... 456916221100420 (Publisher URL)
PURE Output Type: Article
Published Date: 2022-09-20
Published Online Date: 2022-09-20
Accepted Date: 2022-03-30
Authors: Primbs, Maximilian A.
Pennington, Charlotte Rebecca (ORCID Profile 0000-0002-5259-642X)
Lakens, Daniël
Silan, Miguel Alejandro A.
Lieck, Dwayne S. N.
Forscher, Patrick S.
Buchanan, Erin M.
Westwood, Samuel J.


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