Psychological Science Needs a Standard Practice of Reporting the Reliability of Cognitive-Behavioral Measurements


Psychological science relies on behavioral measures to assess cognitive processing; however, the field has not yet developed a tradition of routinely examining the reliability of these behavioral measures. Reliable measures are essential to draw robust inferences from statistical analyses, and subpar reliability has severe implications for measures’ validity and interpretation. Without examining and reporting the reliability of measurements used in an analysis, it is nearly impossible to ascertain whether results are robust or have arisen largely from measurement error. In this article, we propose that researchers adopt a standard practice of estimating and reporting the reliability of behavioral assessments of cognitive processing. We illustrate the need for this practice using an example from experimental psychopathology, the dot-probe task, although we argue that reporting reliability is relevant across fields (e.g., social cognition and cognitive psychology). We explore several implications of low measurement reliability and the detrimental impact that failure to assess measurement reliability has on interpretability and comparison of results and therefore research quality. We argue that researchers in the field of cognition need to report measurement reliability as routine practice so that more reliable assessment tools can be developed. To provide some guidance on estimating and reporting reliability, we describe the use of bootstrapped split-half estimation and intraclass correlation coefficients to estimate internal consistency and test-retest reliability, respectively. For future researchers to build upon current results, it is imperative that all researchers provide psychometric information sufficient for estimating the accuracy of inferences and informing further development of cognitive-behavioral assessments.

Advances in Methods and Practices in Psychological Science
Sam Parsons
Sam Parsons
Postdoctoral Research Associate

Researcher, Open Science Enthusiast, Lovable Bawbag