PLEASE VOTE HERE. (Ignore the automatic greyout.)

It is a fact that there is essentially no support for Cognitive Sciences as a name, nor has there been since I joined the this site in 2013. We have talked a lot about why it's not the best of names, and also how it may be difficult to persuade the SE staff to change the name, how we may lose brand value, etc. It would also be great to have a final election between the two top contenders ("Psychology and Neuroscience" vs. "Mind and Brain") to resolve the final uncertainty between those, etc.

These problems hypothetically exist, but can no longer remain an impediment to pragmatic progress. There is no more uncertainty surrounding whether we want to remain Cognitive Sciences, full stop. We unequivocally do not, for reasons that have been repeated over and over, for years. I will not re-state these reasons here because we are past the point of discussion. The community cannot move on whether we want to change the name except by expressing our preferences, which we have done, clearly and unequivocally against the status quo. The SE staff may or may not refuse, but if we don't ask, it's "no" by default.

I ask that our moderators, on behalf of the CogSci community, acknowledge our undeniable desire to no longer be the Cognitive Sciences SE, and that they take steps to decide, once and for all, which name we will take to the SE staff as its replacement.

If you will not do this, please be transparent, because I do not understand why nothing has been done. If it is impossible to change the site name, for technical reasons or because SE just arbitrarily won't for no reason, and you know this for a fact, then we deserve to know that. If more votes or a bigger discrepancy than 12 to 2 in favor of changing is needed, we deserve to know that.

The status quo is both frustrating and disenfranchising (edit: I guess it's not so much disenfranchising as it is undemocratic, but that's mostly since we were never enfranchised with respect to this in the first place). There is both every reason to strive for an atheoretical site name, and massive community support for doing so. What is going on?


PLEASE VOTE HERE. (Ignore the automatic greyout.)

  • 2
    Sorry about the adversarial tone, I get angry about bureaucratic inertia. Aug 12, 2015 at 15:03
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    +1, big supporter here. :) The main reason for my question meta.cogsci.stackexchange.com/questions/939/… was simply an unfortunate name. Broadening the site's name and emphasizing overlap with basic Neuroscience will draw in more questions which will help the chance on graduation to a full site. However, explicitly emphasizing overlap with Biology.SE may lead to raised eyebrows, I don't know. But again, big supporter here.
    – AliceD Mod
    Aug 13, 2015 at 0:31
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    +1 for Mind and Brain. Cognitive Sciences is kind of intimidating and unclear.
    – Seanny123
    Aug 13, 2015 at 13:16
  • @Seanny123 - yes! Totally agree! Voting can be done here: meta.cogsci.stackexchange.com/questions/537/… I must say I like Brain and Behavior also a lot. However, this discussion should go to linked question :)
    – AliceD Mod
    Aug 13, 2015 at 13:21
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    It also doesn't make any sense to have a name that's so theoretically loaded. Calling the social-behavioral SE "Cognitive Sciences" is no different at all from calling the physics SE "String Theory." Aug 13, 2015 at 13:47
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    Maybe this is just a perspective thing, but I interpret "Cognitive Sciences" as a much broader name than any of the alternatives. To me, the term emphasizes the scientific pursuit of understanding mind, of which psychology and neuroscience are clearly the two biggest players at the moment. I don't see the analogy to physics and string theory. I agree that the name is more opaque than something like Mind and Brain for outsiders, which might be good enough reason to change it in an effort to grow the community. Aug 17, 2015 at 19:19
  • @Josh All cognitive scientists study the mind, but not all scientists who study the mind are cognitive scientists. All physicists study the physical world, but not all physicists who do so are String Theorists. Aug 17, 2015 at 19:34
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    So it's been a month... What's the status on this name change?
    – Seanny123
    Sep 15, 2015 at 18:07
  • 1
    So ... Still haven't heard from this several months later. Guess I will need to try emailing someone else. :)
    – Steven Jeuris Mod
    Dec 11, 2015 at 0:13

3 Answers 3


I'm a moderator over on Community Building. We went through a name change from Moderators.SE to the new Community Building last year. I wanted to offer some insight on the process we went through to get the name changed.

A warning ahead of the process...I do not know where you guys are in this entire process. CogSci is both a larger community and an older community than we were when the name changed.

Our process started when we realized the "Moderators" was limiting the scope of our site. The initial discussions about a name change started with a meta post asking if we should change the name to remove the unwanted limitation. We started getting name suggestions in this post. Over the course of approximately a month, we took name suggestions. We received several suggestions that were merged with higher voted suggestions.

During the next several weeks, the moderation team worked with a community manager on how such a name change would proceed. Using the higher voted suggestions from the first post, we presented these as alternatives to "Moderators". We were provided with feedback on name changes:

  1. Name changes are a one time thing.
  2. We have to explain why the current name is bad AND why the new name is perfect for the site. It's not enough to say that the current name is restricting.
  3. We need to show that most of our users are in favor of the name change

We also needed to follow the naming standards that were announced at the end of 2013. One thing to note, is that ampersands are discouraged. I see that both suggestions from this answer contain an "and" in them.

In this topic, we had it narrowed down to the top three and gathered community feedback on which they would prefer. We also asked for an explanation on why the one they are voting for is "perfect" (bullet 2 from above), so that we could go back with that information.

The highest voted suggestion was "Communities". We received feedback from the Community Managers that is was "a bit too broad/vague to paint a good picture of what the site is actually about". They did like "Community Building" though and asked if we'd be happy with that.

A short vote later, the name was changed. The entire process from the initial request through the name change took a little less than five months. August to December.

  • Thanks a lot for this, Andy, especially the heads-up on the "and" rule. I don't see how there is any way around a name of the format "X and Y," though. A socio-behavioral site is always going to have that, at least until we conclusively solve the mind-body problem (fat chance), or it's going to be heavily theoretically loaded. Aug 15, 2015 at 16:06
  • @StevenJeuris, I do not know if it's both or just "&". The examples provided are for the "Language & Usage" sites. It is mentioned that ampersands are allowed "where absolutely necessary for clarification purposes". I'd talk to a CM for thoughts about the specific situation here. It's also not unprecedented to have the ampersand. (SciFi & Fantasy or Unix & Linux are two that come to mind). Others have gone the other way - Fitness & Nutrition became Physical Fitness.
    – Andy
    Aug 15, 2015 at 16:11
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    @ChristianHummeluhr, It's not a hard rule that it's banned. It just has to be "absolutely necessary for clarification purposes". If it's required, I assume this community can argue that easily.
    – Andy
    Aug 15, 2015 at 16:13

Unfortunately, neither of the proposed options are likely to fly. In particular, our naming standards state:

We should avoid having ampersands (and thus multiple topics) as much as possible, except where absolutely necessary for clarification purposes.

Even though the two proposals ("Mind and Brain" and "Psychology and Neuroscience") don't technically have ampersands, they do use "and" to create a parataxical title. Any one of the words might make a good title. Both Mind and Psychology have been suggested in the past. But jamming two of them together isn't going to fly. (N.B.: we do have some ampersand sites, but they existed before we decided on this naming standard. We grandfathered those in.)

The other concern is that just about any name change would also require a URL change. We ask that "the subdomain should match the site title as closely as possible". The single-word titles would make reasonable subdomains and we could easily redirect cogsci.stackexchange.com to, say, psychology.stackexchange.com. But mindandbrain.stackexchange.com is a bit much.

I hate to send you all back to the drawing board. Would "Psychology" be an accurate title for the site? Does Neuroscience something that is necessary for a casual observer to understand the scope of the site? (I note that biological psychology is the subfield that seems most associated with neuroscience.) If we could narrow the title down to this single word, I can propose it to the rest of the Community Team.

  • It's been half a year since we touched this and there have been extensive back and forths for years so I'm iffy on the details, but basically, it boils down to us already getting more garbage questions (I know SE policy, but I hope you can understand why we might get inordinately many) than we can handle, and some believe a simpler name would invite even more. I would be fine with Psychology, since for all intents and purposes, those are the vast, vast majority of questions we actually get and answer, but I don't see how we're going to repeat this process all over. C'est la vie. Feb 3, 2016 at 18:11
  • 1
    @ChristianHummeluhr: Repeating the process is what my final paragraph is attempting to avoid. I would, however, warn that title changes are not silver bullets. I've not seen any real evidence that a name change has ever done anything statistically significant to the quality (or number) of new questions. (To be fair, I haven't dug very deep. But the promise tends to be that the new name will fix many problems, so it shouldn't take much digging.) Feb 3, 2016 at 18:16
  • I gave up several months ago already, don't worry yourself about it unless you have something substantive to contribute. Again, what response do you expect if not a full repeat? Shall I just say, "Make it so"? Feb 3, 2016 at 19:34
  • If I sound frustrated, it's because a whole bunch of busy academics came together and actually reached a consensus on a difficult question, carefully weighing the rules and standards you now throw around four years, and the 'feedback' we get happens so late that any opportunity to revise is long gone. If you want to do something, you can start by apologizing for wasting our time instead of apologizing for how you think I feel about that fact. Feb 3, 2016 at 19:48
  • I cleaned up the comments here as they were getting a little contentious, and repetitive, but tried to preserve the core points. That said, if you think I removed anything key, feel free to re-post. Goal here was NOT to stifle dialogue, just to clear some of the misunderstandings/clarifications out of the way of the other stuff.
    – Jaydles
    Feb 3, 2016 at 21:13
  • Fine: We played it by the book, and we got the book thrown in our face for it. This could've worked three or four months ago, I guess, but six months after, getting the band back together and making a new decision between these options the Community Team has most generously deigned to present us with, is, unfortunately, just not a practicable option, if last time around is any indication of the effort involved. So if this is supposed to be more than just a token showing, you're going to have to tell us how we are going to move forward on this, Community Team. Feb 3, 2016 at 21:22
  • I'm really not trying to just dump on the CT or repeat myself here, but I could've understood flat out rejection had it happened in a timely manner. I could've understood just ignoring us. I don't understand this. Your representative comes swaggering in, more or less proudly proclaiming you've made no effort at all to understand the issue and long process that went into this proposal; contributing little more than throwing some semantics and arbitrary top-down rules around long after the war is over. It's just adding insult to injury, and that matters. Feb 3, 2016 at 21:31
  • What is all this then? English Language & Usage, Personal Finance & Money, Board & Card Games, Unix & Linux, Science Fiction & Fantasy, Movies & TV, Music: Practice & Theory, ......... 'some' ampersand sites might be a bit of an understatement no?
    – Steven Jeuris Mod
    May 31, 2016 at 18:56

To make this actionable:

A vote for this post constitutes a vote in favor of MIND AND BRAIN, and a vote against this post constitutes a vote in favor of PSYCHOLOGY AND NEUROSCIENCE.

I'm all for changing the name, but I do not feel we have an 'obvious' consensus which we can bring forward to the SE team, as an argument we should choose one of the two suggestions over the other.

However, the majority agrees that "it needs to change", so let's start from there.

as opposed to:

As stated before, I want to hear arguments for and against each, prior to making a decision on one of the two. As a process, I do not want to cherry pick between the two. To examplify, if I change my votes, the two balance out evenly. If there are any objections against one of the two (e.g. the two down votes for "Psychology and Neuroscience"), please let them be heard!

Overall, I think a discussion worthwhile having is whether we want to have a more scientific (Psychology and Neuroscience) vs. a more open (Mind and Brain) appearance. We've had similar discussion before, which aren't that conclusive either.

Our help section states "Cognitive Sciences is a question and answer site for researchers, academics, students, and enthusiasts needing expert answers to advanced questions in the "cognitive sciences": I.e., cognitive science, psychology, neuroscience, and psychiatry. ". In line with this I personally feel "Mind and Brain" better portrays what this site is about. "Psychology and Neuroscience" could still be considered to be too selective, given our current description and questions.

If anyone were to object with "Mind and Brain" as a decision, please be sure to down vote this answer.

  • 6
    I voted for Psychology and Neuroscience. Unlike Cognitive Sciences, it is fully atheoretical, and unlike "Mind and Brain," it refers to discipline rather than subject matter, so it's closest to the existing SE naming convention (e.g., "Biology" and "Physics"). I'm not concerned the name will violate the official naming rules because Psychology and Neuroscience really is as simple and short as it can be, and no simpler than that. Aug 15, 2015 at 16:02
  • 3
    I prefer Cognitive Sciences, but Mind and Brain would be acceptable. I don't like the idea of Psychology and Neuroscience because it changes the scope of the site, removing things like AI and philosophy of mind. It also blurs the distinction between Biology and this SE with basic neuroscience being in the scope of both sites. Aug 16, 2015 at 21:56
  • @Josh How does Psychology and Neuroscience remove things like AI and philosophy of mind? (I voted for both contenders in the original poll, but I prefer P&N when it comes to a head). Aug 17, 2015 at 9:07
  • @ChristianHummeluhr how do you connect Philosophy of mind to P&N?
    – Seanny123
    Aug 17, 2015 at 15:27
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    @Seanny123 PoM is where the subject matter of psychology, what constitutes a psychologically meaningful event to be observed, is defined. Every psychological theory requires a philosophy of mind. Without PoM, there is no scientific psychology. Aug 17, 2015 at 16:51
  • 1
    @ChristianHummeluhr Thanks for the explanation. I guess in the same way Artificial Intelligence is defined by psychology, which defines Intelligence. Neato.
    – Seanny123
    Aug 17, 2015 at 17:05
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    Thanks heaps for all this. I was one of the downvoters of "Psychology and Neuroscience". Most importantly, "Biology" and "Psychology" are 'umbrella' disciplines both including Neuroscience. That's why "Psychology and Neuroscience" sounds like an anticlimax. "..and Neuroscience"? Yeah, duh... Mind and Brain is so much better. It connects Neuroscience implicitly via "Brain", but also implicitly excludes questions on, e.g., reflexes, which are (too) distant from the scope of this site and may indeed be better of at Biology. Anything processed/happening in the brain is on-topic. Done.
    – AliceD Mod
    Aug 18, 2015 at 13:19
  • @AliceD "Processing" (i.e., input->process->output) is more or less the cardinal assumption of a cognitive approach to brain and behavior. You don't see that in, say, perception-action cycle psychology. To go back to my physics example, defining the scope of the site to be "anything that involves processing" would be like defining the scope of Physics SE to be "anything that involves thermodynamics." Aug 18, 2015 at 17:26
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    Personally, I like "Psychology and Neuroscience" because it aligns with actual disciplines that academics and students study. I also think that having neuroscience in the title helps to clarify the academic tone (i.e., it's not intended for self-help psychology questions). Whatever the new name, we'll always have the site description that clarifies the inclusive nature of the site (e.g., that the broader disciplines in cognitive sciences are such as AI are on topic). Aug 19, 2015 at 3:48
  • 1
    @Josh I agree with you in the technical sense, but it's disingenuous to suggest that cognitive science is really independent of the cognitive approach. You can't seriously expect any, e.g., anti-representationalists or psychodynamicists to identify with, or even not be seriously put off by a "cognitive science" site. (Also, I will withdraw my vote and abstain at closing time in the event of a tie, since we didn't account for that possibility. This means Mind and Brain will win a tie.) Sep 1, 2015 at 6:53
  • 1
    @ChristianHummeluhr Actually, I think there are several anti-representationalist faculty in my cognitive science department. I get the problem you are worried about, but I think it's overstated. I am swayed somewhat by JeromyAnglim's point about P&N making the site more clearly a science based site than M&B, and I'll adjust my vote to P&N. Sep 2, 2015 at 18:38
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    Nice! This almost seems as good as a consensus we can get on here! I'll bring it forward to CM next week!
    – Steven Jeuris Mod
    Sep 2, 2015 at 20:49
  • 2
    @StevenJeuris a week has passed. What did they say?
    – Seanny123
    Sep 15, 2015 at 18:09
  • 1
    @StevenJeuris Good to know SE management is on the ball (them, not you). what a joke. Feb 3, 2016 at 6:36
  • 1
    @ChristianHummeluhr I poked them again.
    – Steven Jeuris Mod
    Feb 3, 2016 at 12:13

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