I came here searching a board to ask psychological (or rather psychiatric) questions. But I mean scientific questions - that's why is something happening based on evidence - not an opinion.

I've read some answers here and most of them are quite obviously thought up. If this happens on stack overflow it's all right. All programs are thought up actually. If it happens on Chemistry.SE my room might blow.

To the point, besides the not so reliable answers, I've seen questions that are definitelly opinion based and not scientific:

  1. Can artificial intelligence be creative?
  2. Can you give advices on spirituality as a psychologist?

Yet I can see no flags on the questions (maybe because of my low reputation?) and generally no notion that their are off topic.

I think we can't blame the users so much though. I always read the /on-topic when joining a new meta and this time my reading wasn't much helpful:

cogsci on topic as of 24.11. 2014

There's already some post about the FAQ being unsatisfactory. I have (had at the time of reading) no idea what the cognitive science is, aside from etymological assumptions I could make right away. The information should be right in /on-topic instead of being scattered all around. Most people do not read the /on-topic. Give a little chance to those who do.

I also think even active users (or I) have some conundrum what's on topic and what's not.
In the link user is saying that self-help questions are off topic here. As a Biology.SE user I agree, but you should really first include it in FAQ (/dont-ask). However don't think my question as off topic anyway as I'm not asking for help or advice but that doesn't matter now. 1

The text bellow is not very important.

Now to be a little psychological I'd like to note that you might not feel so good about this post if you're on of the active participants on this meta. I noticed people can feel so uneasy that their judgement might be a little clouded when I criticise something they hold dear. If this describes you please keep in mind that I like this Beta and I mean no harm.

You might also say I could do better instead of criticising but I don't think so. I have no education in either of the things that are supposed to be on topic here. I'm however an active user on several beta scientific sites and while I couldn't enrich the sites with the knowledge I don't have I did my best do give others an inspiration to do so.

I'd like to refer you to this post too, as the poster - unlike me - actually has an idea how to make the site more scientific.

1. if you have a different opinion on that matter post a comment to the relevant question, not here please. This post is to serve a different purpose.

  • As a "PS.:" I'd like to say that I feel like flaging half posts here as not scientific and other half as unclear what you are asking. Nov 24, 2014 at 8:54
  • If you feel doing so, please do so. Part of why this does not happen that much yet is because we are still in beta, we are still evolving/deciding what is on topic/off topic. Also our core community is not extensive enough to peer review all posts properly.
    – Steven Jeuris Mod
    Nov 24, 2014 at 9:25
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    I instead decided to seek scientific questions and upvote them. It's much better reading than the non scientific ones. I know that Beta is evolving, that's the point of beta. But copy-pasting generic FAQ is not what I call evolving. Why not make a (potentially) wrong decision and then fix it instead of doing nothing? I never moderated Beta so what I said was a serious question, not just a gesticulation. Nov 24, 2014 at 9:31
  • Which potentially wrong decision do you suggest? There are related meta discussion on this you can always add your thoughts to. The short summary is that we did not want to end up being too exclusive, as not to risk having too small of a community.
    – Steven Jeuris Mod
    Nov 24, 2014 at 9:42
  • Any of these proposals in the other posts can potentially be wrong. But they seem to be better than the current completely generic FAQ. Basically I was just proposing you get wild on FAQ and we fix it then. The generic FAQ so so faceless that it's hard to point out what should be improved. Someone on SE network was describing that approach. If noone is proposing anything pick something and they'll eventually start to complain and come with something better. Nov 24, 2014 at 14:15
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    @TomášZato this question has been talked to death on this site, I recommend searching meta before digging up old bones and phrasing your sentiment more constructively. Once you are an established user, you are welcome to be critical because we are sure of the quality of your participation. Although I agree with your sentiment (I was one of the people pushing hard for making this site research level in the early days, although I have completely given up on this now), your voice will not have much impact if you just critique without setting an example of good questions and good answers. Nov 25, 2014 at 4:16
  • @ArtemKaznatcheev So you actually think a persistent issue is an old bone? I disagree. Meta is hardly searchable on topics such as this and I've read some posts and I also linked to some in this post. I see no reason why could I only be critical when I'm established user. I'm established user on Stack Exchange and I think any user has equal opportunity to criticise anything on the stack exchange - you probably have different opinion. I'll remember that about you. Nov 25, 2014 at 21:44
  • I have upvoted any good questions and good answers. As soon as bad questions are cleansed good ones are defined be remaining here. I don't have the capacity to define good question on this site. Actually according to the FAQ contents, nobody does. Nov 25, 2014 at 21:46
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    @TomášZato I'm not saying you don't have the right to criticize, just that your criticism will be much more relevant if you've shown yourself to be an active member of this site's community. It is too easy to go strolling through random SEs and nay-say about them. By good questions and answers, I don't mean that you should "define" them, but that you should lead by example: provide good questions and answers and hopefully the community will follow you. What I've learned is that the best way to make this SE better is to contribute content to it. Voting helps too, and I am glad you are doing it! Nov 26, 2014 at 0:16

2 Answers 2


I read your post, but I wasn't entirely clear about what your question is, but I'll focus on your main title question: "Is cognitive sciences stack exchange scientific?"

The site is scientific in several respects:

  • most of the users with the most reputation have scientific qualifications in cognitive sciences
  • answers that get upvoted tend to have a scientifically reasoned answers typically with reference to the primary scientific literature
  • questions that are answerable in a scientific sense tend to get upvoted

Of course, it is a broad site. We get a lot of questions from people with little to no knowledge of the cognitive sciences. We also sometimes get answers that lack adequate scientific reasoning.

If you review meta discussions, we have generally been critiqued for being too strict. I.e., closing too many questions and being too eager to down-vote poorly reasoned answers.

General points

  • With poorly worded questions, we often do try to improve the questions through editing, but we are fairly strict about self-help questions that wont generalise.
  • With poorly reasoned answers, I think we generally rely on voting mechanisms to downvote poorly worded answers, except in more extreme cases.

So if you'd like to contribute to maintaining scientific standards on the site, I encourage you to engage in such activities (e.g., editing poorly worded questions, flagging inappropriate questions, downvoting invalid answers, upvoting valid answers, etc.).

  • Actually, you're the first user which profile indicates you have education matching the topic of this site. Nov 27, 2014 at 6:52
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    @TomášZato A lot of people don't complete their profile. But amongst users with the most votes you'll find a lot of people who are doing or have completed masters and PhDs in areas related to the cognitive sciences. Nov 28, 2014 at 6:04

Good point. I think Biology SE has a higher level of 'scientificness' in that the users actively encourage the use of citations in answers by downvoting those that don't. Also, consistently commenting on those answers that lack proper citations helps. Promoting the use of citations to articles and not wiki pages (although admittedly I use wikipedia pages in my answers still) increases 'scientificness' even further. I think that reviewers are key to bring the level of answers up. Also, poorly defined questions should be edited or put on hold, or transferred to another SE. These practices are more common in Biology SE than Cognitive Sciences I have noticed.

  • 2
    I would LOVE it if we kept to those same standards; I haven't been here long enough to know why we don't.
    – Krysta
    Nov 29, 2014 at 15:42
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    @Krysta Once you can vote to close, down vote, comment, ... you can. I as well would love to see more close votes on poorly defined questions. Whenever I mod-close a question I feel a bit of democracy dying. ;p
    – Steven Jeuris Mod
    Dec 3, 2014 at 13:08
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    Yep, I try to do that! But I get to feeling like a broken record asking for citations/science, and I wasn't sure if I was the only one who wanted that. I'll step it up--nicely (-:
    – Krysta
    Dec 3, 2014 at 13:45

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