I have often wondered what would happen in this situation. This happened to me just moments ago - I had just researched several resources and got an answer together, and as about to post, when I was just beaten at the post (literally by less than a minute). Now, this is not necessarily a bad thing at all - I am sure it happens often.

The answers and the question are here.

I noticed that the answers were quite similar, including one common reference. So, I deleted my answer, the reasons are:

  1. There is always a potential for people to start accusing the 2nd poster (in this case, me) of 'copy-catting' the first answer (which I think is very good in this case) - this has happened to me before on a site I no longer belong to - despite the timestamps etc.
  2. The first answer now makes mine redundant.

What is the a policy on Cognitive Sciences site about similar answers within a short timeframe?

  • 3
    Please allow me to undelete your answer. Having multiple answers to a question is not a bad thing, even if they're similar
    – Josh
    Aug 9, 2013 at 13:12
  • These are very similar, including reference to the same study/paper as a main component of the answer.
    – user3180
    Aug 9, 2013 at 13:14
  • I just figured I would play fair, let the first and in this case, far better answer stand (and I am sincere in that I think the first answer is great and have upvoted it), however, this means my answer is redundant.
    – user3180
    Aug 9, 2013 at 13:15
  • It's possible that's the most authoritative study that's been done :-) I haven't read both the answers yet, I'll do that and post back here shortly...
    – Josh
    Aug 9, 2013 at 13:16
  • 2
  • @JoshGitlin I don't think my answer contributes anything further, and I genuinely are concerned of a repeat of 'copying-other-answers' accusations that I have received before (albeit from another site).
    – user3180
    Aug 9, 2013 at 13:22
  • @Skippy, my answer does not add anything other than what could be put as a comment.
    – user3180
    Aug 9, 2013 at 13:39
  • @Skippy ..lol.. but quite seriously, the main part of my answer is the same as the first answer, they were first and they wrote it far better than I did. I'll add the bit that is different as a comment (it is far too small for an answer).
    – user3180
    Aug 9, 2013 at 13:46
  • 2
    @Damien Answers aren't static, you could always do a bit more research and expand on it. I don't think we're that kind of site where people balk about timestamps. You've established yourself as a solid participant and no one is going to think you are just "fishing" for rep. Aug 9, 2013 at 13:57
  • @ChuckSherrington I appreciate that, as the main reference and main points were identical, I have taken the 'unique' counterpoint and put it as a comment (it is too small to be an answer on its own).
    – user3180
    Aug 9, 2013 at 14:02
  • 2
    Looking over your answer, some of your references were certainly different, and though I think your answer has merit on its own, that alone could be helpful to a future visitor. Aug 9, 2013 at 14:02
  • 1
    (I respect your right not to undelete, though, if that's your decision, just trying to encourage you to see its value) Aug 9, 2013 at 14:03
  • @ChuckSherrington hmmmm - that in itself is a good point, why do we not see worth in our own accomplishments and contributions. Okay, I will undelete and see how we go.
    – user3180
    Aug 9, 2013 at 14:04
  • 3
    @Damien I'm sensing a new CogSci question coming on here ;) Aug 9, 2013 at 14:07
  • @ChuckSherrington hmmm that too is a very good point... coming right up!
    – user3180
    Aug 9, 2013 at 14:07

2 Answers 2


It is my opinion, speaking as a community member and not as a moderator, that duplicate answers are OK as long as they are indeed two separate individual contributions and were both posted independently of each other in a relatively short timespan, or, if the later answer adds a significant contribution which the earlier answer does not have.

To quote some of the points from this MSO answer from Mathieu Imbert on the same topic:

  • If you feel the other answer is better, you can upvote the answer that was posted before yours
  • This behaviour even has a badge for it
  • Sometimes between 2 similar answers, one has better phrasing, or one more detail than make it more useful.
  • As long as you are not maliciously copying other people's answers [don't] delete your answer.

(Edits made slightly to clarify my point)

At the moment, one of the areas our site needs work is the ratio of answers to questions. To quote Our site's Area 51 page:

1.6 answer ratio

Okay – 2.5 answers per question is good, only 1 answer per question needs some work. On a healthy site, questions receive multiple answers and the best answer is voted to the top.

Having two independent, similar answers reinforces the fact that it is a good answer. If both answers are upvoted, don't delete yours. Some people may prefer your phrasing / references / explanation / whatever to the other answer. I think upvoted answers should be deleted only in rare circumstances.

If you post a duplicate answer and people complain, explain yourself and don't let it bother you. Please do not be bothered enough by it to quit a site! If you post a duplicate answer and it gets downvoted below 0, then delete it. There's a badge for that, too!


On sites like Stackoverflow, many answers to a question are near-duplicates of each other, with many people posting the same solution to a programming problem with only slight variations. But then, sometimes these variations are what we are looking for, adding the salt to the stew.

I'm in favor of leaving all answers online and letting voters decide which they like best.

And I do think that using the research of another member and including it in a better answer is an improvement, not theft. Just say where you took it from (quote your sources!). This is common practice in the articles we quote from, so why should we abstain from this practice?

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