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In all honesty, I don't have much field knowledge of what this site is all about.

Interesting and intriguing questions just tend to pop-up and if I'm able to put it down (mostly I do) into a proper question then I post it here. My other goal being to seed this site with good questions to keep the stats up.

But here's where I face the problem, the question are interesting and intrigue but when I get the answer I quite literally stare at them, reading it goes over my head, I don't get much time to get into understanding it and I end-up closing the browser tab. Although I can guess by looking at the answer that it looks correct and has lots of effort placed into it.

In this case what should I do about truly accepting and even voting on the answer?

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There is a famous saying: "A fool may throw a stone into a well which a hundred wise men cannot pull out." It is especially true in the cognitive sciences. Sometimes the simplest sounding questions have the most complicated answers, or worse yet: complicated reasons to explain why they aren't really a question.

The difficulty with the cognitive sciences and this website in particular is that it is very easy to ask a nonsensical question or one based on false premises (I'm not suggesting that the particular question you ask is of this type, but I mean this as a general comment for others that see this discussion). Kind of like asking: "Does purple taste more like lemons or like happiness?" if you don't know that colours, fruit, and emotions are different categories, it might not be obvious that this question is malformed. At times, explaining why a common false premise is in fact false, can be very complicated. You might think that my example is overly dramatic, but I've actually made a habit of answering questions here by pointing out false premises:


IQ is a measurement believed to correlate with certain aspects of 'intelligence'. Executive function is a family of cognitive processes. Thus if interpreted literally question is asking: "What is the difference between a measurement and a family of cognitive processes?"

The 'images' in your brain are just collections of neural activations, and not actual pictures. Thus they cannot have an orientation. In this case, Steven Jeuris specifically asked this question in order to seed the site and to get this sort of debunking. It is however, a very common fallacy people commit, stemming from an implicit separation of the self and the brain. As if there is the 'real you' instead your brain viewing the world through your senses. This is highlighted more subtly by the following questions:

When people make the homunculus fallacy today, they usually do it in a form like: all the sensory information is assembled 'somewhere' and then 'some brain region' perceives it. It is an infinite regress in the sense that the person didn't explain how perceiving is done, they just delegated it to a region of the brain (or maybe even to quantum magic) that they don't understand well. This often leads to a pointless regress.


As Steven Jeuris pointed out, the best way to avoid this is to do initial research, follow up on parts of answers that you didn't understand, and try to explicitly examine the assumptions you make when asking a question. In the end, there is no royal road to learning, it is something that requires time and effort. It is important to examine our biases and understand which parts of folk psychology are nonsensical.

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First, some simple guidelines for voting, accepting, and commenting that work pretty well for me:

  • If the answer is useful, upvote it.
  • If the answer is good enough for you, accept it.
    • I don't see a reason not to upvote in this case too, given sufficient reputation.
  • If there's a problem with the answer, comment.

This section of the OP is a little too vague for me:

The question are interesting and intrigue but when I get the answer I quite literally stare at them, reading it goes over my head, I don't get much time to get into understanding it and I end-up closing the browser tab.

If it goes over your head, this might be a problem with the answer, or the answer might be good enough for you, or at least useful. I certainly don't presume to know which of those is true in your case, but just to eliminate some possibilities, IMHO, the following are not problems with an answer:

  • If there's a concept you don't understand but can look up
    • This gives you something to follow up on; no answer is truly self-contained and complete.
  • If you run out of time / energy / desire / etc. to look things up or read thoroughly or carefully
    • This sounds to me like your purpose has been served, and you're satisfied.
  • It makes your browser crash (like mine just did! ):
    • That's just impressive! Maybe also an indication that you should use Chrome or upgrade RAM.

IMHO, the above are reasons to upvote.


Problems with an answer leading to the "over your head" tab closure effect might include:

  • Excessive vagueness
    • Some is necessary to limit length. We have character limits and attention spans to respect.
  • Reliance on jargon that you can't look up
  • Bad writing that's really excessively convoluted, full of extraneous words, run-on sentences, etc.
    • People like to throw this kind of critique at me, so I put extra effort into proofreading for this.
    • There's a balance between simplification, accuracy, and length that can be quite challenging.

IMHO, the above are reasons to comment.


No one really has time to do all of this appropriately for every question viewed, but I'd say if you have time for the site at all, you should probably spend it first on doing this for answers to your own questions before moving on, just as a matter of civic duty or whatever you want to call it, if not for the sake of getting better answers and paying back their providers. That being said, it's somewhat rare that people really do all of this right (which is not to say that what I've said above is necessarily right for others; only that it's right for me) even on their own questions, so these are only my suggestions of helpful guidelines, not hard-and-fast rules that, if you violate, I will hold against you or anything like that. I'd have too many problems with too many people if I thought like that! I'd also be ignoring the fact that most matters of site usage such as these are partly democratic issues to be decided individually and pragmatically. As such, there's really no use in going all moralistic over it prematurely. To some extent, a laissez faire policy is the truest and most realistic.

  • 2
    A crashed browser is a reason to up vote? :) Lol – Steven Jeuris Feb 8 '14 at 15:40
  • @StevenJeuris rofl :D – Bleeding Fingers Feb 8 '14 at 17:50
  • @StevenJeuris: like I said, that's just impressive! :D – Nick Stauner Feb 8 '14 at 19:41
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Part of the problem is you didn't do any initial research. As I've often said before, doing at least some level of research not only makes the question easier to answer short and to the point, it also makes it more interesting for the person asking the question.

When you do some initial research you can better define what you are interested in, and early on, point out what you do understand and what you don't understand. Perhaps you get sidetracked into small specific details which you can then ask questions about which you might better understand the answers to.

In this case however, if you have somewhat of an interest in the question (since you asked it in the first place). Don't hesitate to ask follow-up questions when you get stuck again in your research. These are the ones you could have actually asked in the first place.

Learning takes time, don't expect to understand answers to broadly formulated questions off the bat. People write books on these topics ...

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