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Are we witnessing the decline effect in the Type D personality literature? What can be learned?

Journal of Psychosomatic Research
DOI: 10.1016/j.jpsychores.2012.09.016
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Abstract After an unbroken series of positive, but underpowered studies seemed to demonstrate Type D personality predicting mortality in cardiovascular disease patients, initial claims now appear at least exaggerated and probably false. Larger studies with consistently null findings are accumulating. Conceptual, methodological, and statistical issues can be raised concerning the construction of Type D personality as a categorical variable, whether Type D is sufficiently distinct from other negative affect variables, and if it could be plausibly assumed to predict mortality independent of depressive symptoms and known biomedical factors, including disease severity. The existing literature concerning negative affect and health suggests a low likelihood of discovering a new negative affect variable that independently predicts mortality better than its many rivals. The apparent decline effect in the Type D literature is discussed in terms of the need to reduce the persistence of false positive findings in the psychosomatic medicine literature, even while preserving a context allowing risk-taking and discovery. Recommendations include greater transparency concerning research design and analytic strategy; insistence on replication with larger samples before accepting “discoveries” from small samples; reduced confirmatory bias; and availability of all relevant data. Such changes would take time to implement, face practical difficulties, and run counter to established practices. An interim solution is for readers to maintain a sense of pre-discovery probabilities, to be sensitized to the pervasiveness of the decline effect, and to be skeptical of claims based on findings reaching significance in small-scale studies that have not been independently replicated.

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