How Do Scientific Views Change? Notes from an Extended Adversarial Collaboration

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

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

47 Citations (Scopus)
309 Downloads (Pure)


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 in different 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
Pages (from-to)1011-1025
JournalPerspectives on Psychological Science
Issue number4
Early online date08 Jun 2020
Publication statusPublished - 01 Jul 2020


  • adversarial collaboration
  • working memory


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