Synergy in Basic and Applied BSSR

We need to study where behavioral interventions *don't* work and why, and this can advance basic scientific theories

Social and behavioral scientists have typically focused on average effects—trying to answer questions about a "true effect" or about how "important" an effect is—and have tended to view heterogeneous effects as a limitation, as meaning that the effects "only" apply for a more limited subgroup. But this view has been shifting. Heterogeneity is now seen as the way things in the world actually are; nothing, and particularly no psychological phenomenon, works for all people in all contexts (see Gelman & Loken, 2014). Second, heterogeneity provides a unique opportunity to develop ever more sophisticated theories of human psychology and behavior, as well as better interventions (see Allcott, 2015; Henrich, Heine, & Norenzayan, 2019; McShane, Tackett, Böckenholt, & Gelman, 2019; Tipton et al., 2019; Weiss et al., 2014). For instance, when we understand how a behavioral intervention delivered to a young person is moderated by a teacher or school's qualities, then we learn something about the mechanisms needed to sustain the effect of the intervention over time. This kind of moderation analysis can lead to new hypotheses that can be tested directly in new laboratory research. Thus, we envision a cycle from applied research to basic research--from interventions to moderators of interventions and back into the lab to understand why the heterogeneous effects appeared. Studies that seek to replicate a basic intervention effect *and* identify a moderator need to not be relegated to a less-interesting category of "just a replication study with a smaller effect size" and needs to not be viewed as identifying limitations in past work, but instead need to be viewed as a key and well-funded part of the lifecycle of basic and applied research.

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Idea No. 337