I've committed to the proposal for a "Mental Fitness" beta, but it raises a difficult question: What's the difference from cogsci.SE? Is this just another of too many duplicate proposals out there already? These are Area 51 discussion questions, so I thought we might want our own meta-question here, at least to draw our users attention to those questions if not to host our own separate discussion.

Maybe this is an opportunity for Raising awareness of CogSci's success on other Area 51 sites! We can always use more ways to drum up support for cogsci.SE (another Area 51 discussion worth promoting). Is there more we can do with the Mental Fitness proposal to encourage its users to ask their questions here? If we want this, should we commit over there to help promote it as a separate source of traffic, and spread the word about cogsci.SE from within while we're there?

Or do we wish to discuss any objections to the prospect of merging their questions with ours? I've seen a lot of objections to unscientific questions that show a lack of initial research here (e.g., on this question), so it seems worth warning readers here that some people seem to have the impression that Mental Fitness would be a less scientific cousin to this site...though that may be less applicable since they've redefined the proposal from its previous title, "Mind"...Any impressions of Mental Fitness as it stands so far? Might it even be worth promoting as a sister site?

  • 1
    To me the question is rather: What's the difference from productivity.SE? On cogsci.SE those questions would be considered self-help of the non-disordered type.
    – user3116
    Jan 28, 2014 at 20:12
  • Aren't we at least marginally tolerant of self-help questions that are asked generally (i.e., not as, "I have a personal problem that is unique to me as far as I know. Please help me personally!" but as, "What can people do to change this aspect of themselves?" Especially when there's no disorder or major health risk at issue (at least, on the surface)? I agree, productivity is related, but it seems plain enough to me that mental fitness is not oriented exclusively toward mere productivity, nor is productivity purely a mental issue. The focus on a task vs. on oneself is a big distinction. Jan 28, 2014 at 23:24

4 Answers 4


Meh. It sounds like a breeding ground for self help questions with pseudoscientific answers. (All be it my answers are not the best but I could imagine them getting worse.) "Oh you're having an episode of mania? Just run around the block till you get tired it works for me." Moreover this type of site might be used to promote things like crazed affective disorder psuedo-therapies questions and answers. I can also readily see marijuana and other hallucinogens as tools to access the inner self.

Most of these questions belong in cogsci; out of boredom I so illustrate and to prove my point I may illustrate further.

Is there any experimental research on brain exercise games? Are these scams or not?

Is "brain training" effective?

Which supplements for improving memory have solid research? Is there evidence that they work over the long-term?

Do any supplements or psychoactive drugs for improving memory have solid long term research?

How does my brain change when I am in a relationship?


Are there ways to increase the synapses in my brain?

What is the maximum amount of synapses? What processes (if any) increase synapse amount?

According to research what is the most optimal tapering method for coming off of antidepressants? Is it the same for all types of antidepressants?


What are some new ways to pro-actively cope with or eliminate SAD?

What is the current state of SAD treatment according to research?


In theory, YES

The difference between Cognitive Sciences and Mental Fitness could be similar to that between Biology and Physical Fitness.

Let's take that question: How to breathe in lifts requiring tight core (squats, deadlifts). Could it belong to Biology? Theoretically yes, because muscle functioning is a biological mechanism. In practice, it fits dedicated site much better. Many people are running, weightlifting etc., and have tons of tips and techniques to train more effectively. Hosting everything of that on Biology would create too much noise.

In practice, hard to say

Like there are numerous publications about weightlifting and running, there are numerous books about improving own mind's performance. Unfortunately, the quality doesn't go in pair with quantity and many of them are simply noise, and many are dubious, if not dangerous.

As for now, Mental Fitness doesn't have many questions, but quality answers are something that is missing at most. Without good answers, based either or high quality sources, or on own experience (for example, in training memory with mnemotechnics), the site has no chance to survive.


I see a high potential for Mental Fitness. Per analogy to Physical Fitness, it could host questions about techniques, tips and tricks for training mind effectiveness, as well as questions about training mistakes and the ways to fix them. As for now, this potential has not shown up because of too little good quality questions.

  • Thanks for your answer. I'm downvoting because I disagree, but I hope others will vote independently too. IMO, the problem with your theoretical distinction is that, as I've said in my answer, we are far from having too much noise here. We have plenty of room for positive psychology, which is closely related to social and personality psychology if not wholly subsumed by them. Furthermore, the distinction between positive psychology and psychiatry is blurry at best, and psychiatry is explicitly included here. Quality answers would come more easily here, but I don't see major problems with Qs. Mar 27, 2014 at 20:52

The private beta launched. So far, I'm seeing no positive differences. There are meta questions:

  • What is it that sets us apart?
  • What is Mental Fitness
  • What types of answers do we expect?

The latter two mention us specifically, acknowledging similarities.

Here are the 12 questions that are up so far:

  • How to cope with emotions?
  • Does remembering things improve memory?
  • Improving mood and well-being in schizophrenic patients without antipsychotic / antidepressant drugs
  • What are operational steps one might take to climb out of depression in the shortest amount of time?
  • How to detect depression on oneself without external observer?
  • Effectiveness of QuizUp and similar games on acquiring general knowledge
  • Which nootropics have good science behind them?
  • How to train concentration on environment (when trafficing)?
  • Does hearing a TV/radio in background really help with language learning?
  • What mental skills are build up by solving Sudokus?
  • What food can maximize brain fitness?
  • Which of Lumosity's mental games are backed with research for their transfer effects?

Having skimmed each, I can at least say the titles are all pretty self-explanatory. I'd argue they all fit in here, and therefore should be here (if anywhere), since we're far from having too many questions. Some of them may already be here – if you know a duplicate, comment here, and I'll link it in a comment there.

It's still a little early to judge the site, because it lacks any clear definition at all, but what definition it has is still completely duplicative of this site. I can't think of a question that I'd rather ask there, but I'll keep trying. In the meantime, I expect most of my activity there will be in pointing users this way. Our site is approaching viability for (see What site statistics might indicate that our site is ready to graduate from beta?), and would benefit from a bump in attention.

If there actually is any useful distinction to draw between Mental Fitness and Cognitive Sciences, we might consider broadening our scope to eliminate any such distinction, though it's hard to imagine any good distinction. As other answers here and on the Area51 questions I linked in the OP suggest, the clearest available distinctions offered thus far would appear to be differences in generality and scientific expertise/support/rigor, but these are not desirable distinctions.

  • I see no indication here that we restrict our scope to nomothetic theory to the exclusion of idiographic theory, but I doubt Stack Exchange wants any site to specialize in questions that don't apply to others.
  • I especially doubt SE wants answers about mental health that are not based on scientific theory or expertise...but it's not like we don't see plenty of those over here anyway. We have a better-established, more experienced community here (Mental Fitness is brand new, but the fact of the matter will not change anytime soon), so we have clearer rules (Mental Fitness currently has none whatsoever that are unique from SE as a whole) and better enforcement of minimal quality standards. I don't think Mental Fitness wants to define itself as a home for all questions and answers that are not good enough for us; this is not a viable distinction.

Thus far, I see no reason for Mental Fitness to remain open and separate, and plenty of reasons for it not to. I'll keep an eye on it for any hint of meaningful, useful distinction, but seeing none now and foreseeing none later, I'd much sooner want to see the site closed and its questions migrated here rather than promote it as a sister site.

  • Up to 30 questions now. Still all on-topic over here, except some specifically self-help-oriented questions. Whether self-help questions are on-topic over there has been disputed. Again, if we've got strong justification for not handling personal mental health questions here on the site that definitionally subsumes psychiatry, I don't see how choosing to handle such questions over there could be a viable way of differentiating these sites. Mar 27, 2014 at 11:09

I think it depends a lot on the flexibility (upon less scientific question) that the people here wants to adopt.

Now this section prefers very scientific questions. I would prefer to have just one section maybe a bit more flexible.

However.. it depends on what people prefer.

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