How do scientific views change? Notes from an extended adversarial collaboration

Nelson Cowan, Clement Belletier, Jason Doherty, Agnieszka Jaroslawska, Stephen Rhodes, Alicia Forsberg, Moshe Naveh-Benjamin, Pierre Barrouillet, Valerie Camos, Robert Logie

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


There are few examples of an extended adversarial collaboration, in which investigators committed to different theoretical views collaborate to test opposing predictions. Whereas previous adversarial collaborations have produced single research articles, here we share our experience in programmatic, extended adversarial collaboration involving three laboratories indifferent countries with different theoretical views regarding working memory, the limited information retained in mind, serving ongoing thought and action. We have focused on short term memory retention of items (letters) during a distracting task (arithmetic), and effects of aging on these tasks. Over several years, we have conducted and published joint research with preregistered predictions, methods, and analysis plans, with replication of each study across two laboratories concurrently. We argue that, although an adversarial collaboration will not usually induce senior researchers to abandon favored theoretical views and adopt opposing views, it will necessitate varieties of their views that are more similar to one another, in that they must account for a growing, common corpus of evidence. This approach promotes understanding of others’views and presents to the field research findings accepted as valid by researchers with opposing interpretations. We illustrate this process with our own research experiences and make recommendations applicable to diverse scientific areas
Original languageEnglish
JournalPerspectives on Psychological Science
Early online date8 Jun 2020
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 8 Jun 2020


  • scientific method
  • adversarial collaboration
  • scientific views
  • changing views
  • working memory

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