Ethnography vs. zombie methodologies: what anthropology can teach psychology about nonreproducibility

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Beginning in 2011, public scandals and high-visibility critiques of research methods in psychology fed a broader “replication crisis”: foundational experiments could not be replicated, and statistical methods in social psychology demonstrated vulnerability to fraud and manipulation. Even well-intended researchers following accepted psychological protocols—zombie methodologies—could unintentionally produce false positives. In response, social psychologists have called for greater sensitivity to cultural diversity, a deeper consideration of social context, and more methodological reflection. The contrast with anthropology is dramatic, highlighting some of the strengths of our field: methodological versatility, appreciation of human variability, theoretical creativity, and a solid foundation for synthetic, interdisciplinary collaboration grounded in our tradition of holism. The human sciences are an important audience for anthropologists, as the example of cognitive science shows.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)164-170
Number of pages7
JournalAmerican Ethnologist
Issue number1
Early online date28 Dec 2023
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2024

Bibliographical note

Copyright the Author(s) 2023. Version archived for private and non-commercial use with the permission of the author/s and according to publisher conditions. For further rights please contact the publisher.


  • anthropological holism
  • anthropological methods
  • cultural diversity
  • human variation
  • integrative pluralism
  • replication crisis
  • zombie methodology


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