Statistical heartburn: an attempt to digest four pizza publications from the Cornell Food and Brand Lab


Background: We present the results of a reanalysis of four articles from the Cornell Food and Brand Lab based on data collected from diners at an Italian restaurant buffet. Method: We calculated whether the means, standard deviations, and test statistics were compatible with the sample size. Test statistics and p values were recalculated. We also applied deductive logic to see whether the claims made in each article were compatible with the claims made in the others. We have so far been unable to obtain the data from the authors of the four articles. Results: A thorough reading of the articles and careful reanalysis of the results revealed a wide range of problems. The sample sizes for the number of diners in each condition are incongruous both within and between the four articles. In some cases, the degrees of freedom of between-participant test statistics are larger than the sample size, which is impossible. Many of the computed F and t statistics are inconsistent with the reported means and standard deviations. In some cases, the number of possible inconsistencies for a single statistic was such that we were unable to determine which of the components of that statistic were incorrect. Our Appendix reports approximately 150 inconsistencies in these four articles, which we were able to identify from the reported statistics alone. Conclusions: We hope that our analysis will encourage readers, using and extending the simple methods that we describe, to undertake their own efforts to verify published results, and that such initiatives will improve the accuracy and reproducibility of the scientific literature. We also anticipate that the editors of the journals that published these four articles may wish to consider whether any corrective action is required.

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@inproceedings{Zee2017StatisticalHA, title={Statistical heartburn: an attempt to digest four pizza publications from the Cornell Food and Brand Lab}, author={Tim van der Zee and Jordan Anaya and Nicholas J. L. Brown}, year={2017} }