The Expertise of Death

How important is expertise in conducting replications? Many Labs 4 was a large, multi-lab effort that brought together 21 labs, running 2,220 subjects, to study that question. The goal was to compare replications with and without the involvement of the original authors to see if that made a difference. But things got complicated when the effect they chose to study – the mortality salience effect that is a cornerstone of terror management theory – could not be replicated by anyone. In this episode, we talk about the implications of Many Labs 4. What does and doesn’t this study say about the importance of expertise and “secret sauce” in conducting replications? Should we necessarily expect that the effect of expertise is to make effects larger or more likely to replicate? What does this replication mean for terror management theory, which has been the focus of hundreds of studies and a 2010 meta-analysis that concluded that mortality salience effects are real and substantial? What place does terror management theory hold in the history of social psychology, and how is that similar or different from ego depletion, another theory that was supported by a meta-analysis but not by multi-lab replications? Plus: we answer a letter about weaponizing tenure if you get it.


The Black Goat is hosted by Sanjay Srivastava, Alexa Tullett, and Simine Vazire. Find us on the web at, on Twitter at @blackgoatpod, on Facebook at, and on instagram at @blackgoatpod. You can email us at You can subscribe to us on iTunes or Stitcher.

Our theme music is Peak Beak by Doctor Turtle, available on under a Creative Commons noncommercial attribution license. Our logo was created by Jude Weaver.

This is episode 74. It was recorded on January 22, 2020.