Cumulative Science via Bayesian Posterior Passing

An Introduction


  • Charlotte Olivia Brand University of Exeter
  • James Patrick Ounsley University of St Andrews
  • Daniel Job van der Post University of St Andrews
  • Thomas Joshua Henry Morgan Arizona State University



Bayesian statistics, metascience, cumulative science, replication crisis, stereotype threat, psychological methods


This paper introduces a statistical technique known as “posterior passing” in which the results of past studies can be used to inform the analyses carried out by subsequent studies. We first describe the technique in detail and show how it can be implemented by individual researchers on an experiment by experiment basis. We then use a simulation to explore its success in identifying true parameter values compared to current statistical norms (ANOVAs and GLMMs). We find that posterior passing allows the true effect in the population to be found with greater accuracy and consistency than the other analysis types considered. Furthermore, posterior passing performs almost identically to a data analysis in which all data from all simulated studies are combined and analysed as one dataset. On this basis, we suggest that posterior passing is a viable means of implementing cumulative science. Furthermore, because it prevents the accumulation of large bodies of conflicting literature, it alleviates the need for traditional meta-analyses. Instead, posterior passing cumulatively and collaboratively provides clarity in real time as each new study is produced and is thus a strong candidate for a new, cumulative approach to scientific analyses and publishing.


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