Exploring reliability heterogeneity with multiverse analyses: Data processing decisions unpredictably influence measurement reliability


  • Sam Parsons University of Oxford




reliability, multiverse, analytic flexibility, data processing


Analytic flexibility is known to influence the results of statistical tests, e.g. effect sizes and p-values. Yet, the degree to which flexibility in data processing decisions influences measurement reliability is unknown. In this paper I attempt to address this question using a series of 36 reliability multiverse analyses, each with 288 data processing specifications, including accuracy and response time cut-offs. I used data from a Stroop task and Flanker task at two time points, as well as a Dot Probe task across three stimuli conditions and three timepoints. This allowed for broad overview of internal consistency reliability and test-retest estimates across a multiverse of data processing specifications. Largely arbitrary decisions in data processing led to differences between the highest and lowest reliability estimate of at least 0.2, but potentially exceeding 0.7. Importantly, there was no consistent pattern in reliability estimates resulting from the data processing specifications, across time as well as tasks. Together, data processing decisions are highly influential, and largely unpredictable, on measure reliability. I discuss actions researchers could take to mitigate some of the influence of reliability heterogeneity, including adopting hierarchical modelling approaches. Yet, there are no approaches that can completely save us from measurement error. Measurement matters and I call on readers to help us move from what could be a measurement crisis towards a measurement revolution.


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