Gray (Literature) Matters: Evidence of Selective Hypothesis Reporting in Social Psychological Research




Selective reporting practices (SRPs)—adding, dropping, or altering study elements when preparing reports for publication—are thought to increase false positives in scientific research. Yet analyses of SRPs have been limited to self-reports or analyses of pre-registered and published studies. To assess SRPs in social psychological research more broadly, we compared doctoral dissertations defended between 1999 and 2017 with the publications based on those dissertations. Selective reporting occurred in nearly 50% of studies. Fully supported dissertation hypotheses were 3 times more likely to be published than unsupported hypotheses, while unsupported hypotheses were nearly 4 times more likely to be dropped from publications. Few hypotheses were found to be altered or added post hoc. Dissertation studies with fewer supported hypotheses were more likely to remove participants or measures from publications. Selective hypothesis reporting and dropped measures significantly predicted greater hypothesis support in published studies, supporting concerns that SRPs may increase Type 1 error risk.

Document Type


Publication Date


Publisher Statement

Copyright © 2020, Sage Journals.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1177/0146167220903896