Many stacks in the stackexchange site are facts-oriented, and Q&A are facts-oriented questions. However, my understanding of cognitive science –at least the cognitive psychology sub-area—is that very few facts are taken for definitive; all discoveries are tentatively explained and the explanations are very likely to change through the years. Hence, in my opinion, fact-seeking questions are very unlikely to yield a high proportion of answered questions.

What units the empiricist in cognitive science is methods. All cognitive scientists are very strong with respect to experimental methods (and statistical methods as well, but cross-validated took this part). Consequently, a question that is very likely to be answered is for example: "How could we set up and experiment that would show that X seems to be true". All the contributors of cogsci are likely to be able to contribute to such question, and a best design might be identified by the person who asked the question. Compare this to the following question "Is X true?" which cannot be answered for a vast majority of what we may think of. Take for example can-hypnotherapy-help-to-change-my-tastes-in-food. Any answer will be approximate unless someone happens to be studying that very precise question (what are the odds?).

Some stacks are not facts-oriented. For example, the TeX stack (wich I appreciate much) is output-oriented. What solution could yield a desired output. This is what TeX professional do, this is how they see their job, and this is why they feel that TeX – LaTeX is where they want to contribute. Same argument applies to cognitive scientists: They are strongly method-oriented, method questions make sense to them, and they are well equipped to answer such questions. Promoting method-oriented questions might also attract more scientists involved in the cognitive sciences.

So my question is: Should we encourage more methodological questions? Is that question what-experiment-in-a-simple-decision-task-should-we-run-to-obtain-one-million-trials a good example of method-oriented question and thus, should it be closed or not?

2 Answers 2


I have argued before expecting a minimum amount of initial research could help eliminate the purely hypothetical questions you describe.

This is our main problem. We should make it very clear that although non-expert questions are welcome, we shouldn't allow questions which aren't founded in any way. Even non-expert questions shouldn't be hypothetical. Stating you heard something once, but don't recall when or where doesn't constitute a good question. Non-expert and expert questions alike should show proof there is reason to ask the question.

I do not see how method-oriented questions would be somehow 'better' by default. One possible problem with such questions is similar to 'gimme the codez' on Stack Overflow: the OP can describe an object of interest and merely ask for the research method to adopt.

As to your specific question, I do find it could be considered a good 'methodology' question. You describe what you are interested in, and merely ask for task recommendations. However, I find it a bit weird 'any task would go'. Your motivation seems to be setting up an experiment for the sake of setting up an experiment. What is the exact thing you want to study? Why would such a study be needed? Elaborating on this could make the question less 'primarily opinion based', which are the close votes it currently (past versions) attracted.

That said, welcome to Cognitive Sciences, and thank you for starting this discussion!

  • @DenisCousineau perhaps you could rephrase your question to something like "What are some common simple-decision-making-tasks, and how do they rate on accuracy responses among others?" Then you can identify many different tasks with their pro's and con's, without making it a discussion/opinion based question. Then, as suggested, you could have a discussion in a separate chat to determine what you (and fellow interestees) would like to deploy. Commented Feb 1, 2017 at 7:12

It's great to have someone of your academic calibre getting involved with the site. First and foremost, I wanted to welcome you to the site. We are very keen to attract more academics such as yourself, and research students.

Equally, as you will see there are quite a few norms of the site, which differ from other forums (e.g., discussion boards, mailing lists, forums, etc.). These norms are designed with the goal of creating high quality artefacts on the internet that will be useful for many people in the future.

Regarding your specific question about the site:

Substantive questions: I think there are many good examples of substantive questions answered with reference to the academic literature. So there's certainly no problems with asking a substantive question, even if the nature of truth in psychology and cognitive science is a little more contested than in some domains.

Methodological questions: I would like to see more methodological questions on this site. In particular, I would like to see more questions asked by active researchers (e.g., students doing a thesis; academics) which ask for advice about a particular aspect of conducting research.

Questions like:

  • What is a good measure of X?
  • How do you implement X in psychological experiment software Y?
  • How should I configure X piece of psychological equipment to do Y?

Your Question: The question you asked is quite different in form and structure to the norms of both the site and stackexchange in general.

Hopefully, if you stick around, you'll get a greater feel for the expected format. At the moment it is framed as more of a brainstorm. I imagine there are some simple tweaks that would make it a more objective question, and thus more in line with site standards.

  • Thanks @JeromyAnglim for your input. If you have specific advice on how I can rephrase my question, I will gladly welcome them. (the good news is that it is attracting many views) Commented Feb 3, 2017 at 1:16
  • @DenisCousineau I've given it a quick edit (nothing substantive). I think regular users of the site might object to the last bit: "Please let's see ..." because it sounds a bit more like a brainstorming session, whereas questions here are meant to seek to be "the correct answer". But personally I don't mind it, if it means that you are encouraging others to use the site. Commented Feb 3, 2017 at 1:21
  • @JeromyAnglim - I'm trying to reach out to the mods on chat. I've posted some stuff there I would like to discuss. I can't ping you though. Could you come over to the axon terminal? It's sort of urgent (stuff to do with a new pro tem mod etc.) Cheers mate ;-)
    – AliceD Mod
    Commented Apr 7, 2017 at 12:46

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