I think this Beta in particular will have a strong base of users not being very knowledgeable of the board's topic. I'm quite an example as I actually study engineering.

I however think many of these did come following a different path and are often trying to get confirmation of their feelings about other people. (It's hard to describe all this generally, but to be fair to all, I'm refraining from posting actual examples)

The questions usually follow a pattern "Why are people so bad" addressing various common human traits - but seem to be strongly motivated by negative experience and actually getting a confirmation that they are the good guys and the other person is influenced by his/her psychological problem. But world's far from black and white and both of the sides could represent themselves by such a question - maybe actually the same one.

You might be right that there's nothing with asking question of everyday life. The problem I see is that such a question strongly implies the need for confirmation, often is unclear (addressing things that are individually relative) and does not motivate users to answer with reasonable explanation based on references.

But yet the question is easily sympathised with. The human traits are, when separated, not as unique as a human being with all of them combined. You'll get a lot of people casting an upvote on a question that is in my opinion a "rant in disguise" as is written in FAQ.

I actually too had caught myself trying to do this, to disguise a question about people who are troubling my everyday life and get an answer confirming that they are in control of irrational instincts and therefore creatures of lesser consciousness. I consider this wrong. Science should be motivated by curiosity, even though there are famous cases where it was motivated by some feelings (such as when Bell discovered phone while trying to get his wife hear things once again - I personally feel it's relevant that the feelings were of the kind we call positive).

Please share your thoughts.

  • Oh my. Have I really written all this? It's the time I asked myself a psychological question. Commented Nov 24, 2014 at 20:16

1 Answer 1


I agree that this is a real problem, and it was a real problem two years ago, too. CogSci.SE is vulnerable to a particular kind of question with the following characteristics:

  1. Anecdotal: The question is either explicitly or implicitly motivated by first- or second-hand anecdotal experience (e.g., a blog post).
  2. Inadequately researched: Little attempt is made to operationalize or place the question within any context.
  3. Sympathetic: It would be really nice if the question had a satisfying answer.

There are literally dozens of these stuck in limbo on the Unanswered tab. These ghost questions evade automatic deletion by the Community user because people upvote them, but they will never actually be answered because to answer them is either impossible, or tantamount to a (publishable) literature review and meta-analysis.

As far as I can tell on Area 51, the Q/A metrics have not improved, and may actually have gotten worse since I was last here. I don't see CSSE getting out of beta until we start setting some simple, concrete requirements for what constitutes a question that is amenable to answering. I may be projecting, but it's certainly why I don't come here as regularly as I would like. Comments asking the question authors for clarification and close votes evidently do not work reliably, for reasons I can only speculate on (though lots of question authors simply never seem to come back).

People obviously shouldn't need to submit a full pre-registered open access proposal, but running a Google Scholar search and reporting what you can garner (from abstracts, if necessary) has got to be some sort of floor here, even for lay people. Everything that falls shorts of this needs to be downvoted and closed with prejudice to correct for the "feelies" bias the question outlines.

  • I stopped participating here long ago. I came here for science... Commented Mar 19, 2015 at 12:22
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    I haven't been here for over a year myself. It isn't interesting to participate when most of the 'work' needs to go into editing or interpreting questions generously enough that they can be answered at all, or locating questions that can be answered as-is. Commented Mar 19, 2015 at 12:38
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    Very much a real and unadressed problem that makes the site less useful. I'm not sure why we don't have standards about prior research (like stackoverflow does).
    – Krysta
    Commented Mar 20, 2015 at 12:08
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    I disagree about the prior research bit. Most lay people don't even know what Google scholar is, or how to evaluate scientific research. If we want the audience for the site to become exclusively those with an academic background, then fine, but I this this would be a mistake. If a question is easy to answer with a quick google scholar search then do it or let someone else do it. It will make the knowledge easier to access for the next person.
    – Josh
    Commented Mar 21, 2015 at 23:17
  • I think what we need to combat the problem of bad questions are more options for reasons to close. There are bad questions that should be closed but that don't fall nicely into one of the current reasons to close.
    – Josh
    Commented Mar 21, 2015 at 23:18
  • We're not lacking for tools, we're lacking for .. grit, for lack of a better word. The community seems to operate on time scales so long that I simply can't tell whether anything is happening at all, even going back through Meta retroactively. From where I'm standing, CogSci is dying in slow motion and has been for the last year because we insist on trying to balance a fundamentally unstable equilibrium between "no common knowledge assumed" and actually growing a base of cognitive science people. Commented Mar 21, 2015 at 23:33
  • I don't care if the minimal criterion is Google Scholar or something else, but there's no way to make this no common knowledge ideal work. It would be like if CV didn't have the replicability criterion: all the time would go into clarifying and editing questions, qualified people would slowly bleed out of the site, and eventually it would die. Commented Mar 21, 2015 at 23:37

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