There recently was a question put on hold that asked for a recommended book on CogSci:

best book for cognitive science

It was put on hold because of the opinion-basedness of the question.

Why? I think, despite different people thinking different books, this is a valid question? In my discipline, Neuroscience, there is basically just one masterpiece. Going up to the level of general Biology, it becomes admittedly more ambiguous, but still I could give good advice to a few general works. This can be valuable to folks of an unrelated discipline without any connections to that field.

Perhaps in Cognitive Science there is a bewildering number of excellent works, or CogSci.SE has a different attitude, so I thought to ask.

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    "In my discipline, Neuroscience, there is basically just one masterpiece" That is why more specific questions have this problem less. – Steven Jeuris Jan 26 '15 at 15:49
  • Related: meta.cogsci.stackexchange.com/q/680/21 – Steven Jeuris Jan 26 '15 at 15:49
  • More related: meta.cogsci.stackexchange.com/q/36/21 – Steven Jeuris Jan 26 '15 at 15:50
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    I think these questions would be useful if a larger portion of our users were professionals or academics in the Cognitive Sciences (this is why I am okay with these sort of questions on research-level sites like cstheory). However, given that most of our users are beginners and interested non-professionals, I fear that these sort of questions will garner a lot of poor responses on our site. – Artem Kaznatcheev Jan 27 '15 at 2:51
  • @ArtemKaznatcheev - Thanks for your input and I understand. One last 'but,..but..' before taking in your comment as an answer: poor responses can be downvoted or deleted? – AliceD Jan 27 '15 at 13:18
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    @ChrisStronks I am with you here, and I would love for our site to be able to sustain such questions, but I really don't see it happening with our community. Sure, we will be able to identify the really bad answers and downvote (although few people do, given the rep cost) and maybe delete (almost nobody casts delete votes, most has to be done by mods, it seems). But what about all the other so-so answers? Questions like this are largely 'good taste' questions and they are useful only if the community largely has good taste. – Artem Kaznatcheev Jan 27 '15 at 18:36
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    As a case study: consider that somebody gives a crummy but popular pop-sci book as an answer. Everybody who works in the field knows the book is crappy, but there are only 3 of those to give downvotes; the majority of our users only read pop-sci books (if anything at all) and recognize the author/title and upvote it... – Artem Kaznatcheev Jan 27 '15 at 18:38
  • @ArtemKaznatcheev - many thanks, makes perfect sense now. Admittedly, I can't be of any sensible help on this kind-of question either... It's indeed a critical mass thing, interesting point. Thanks. – AliceD Jan 27 '15 at 18:53
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    @ChrisStronks don't take my comments as authoritative, I don't think the debate is completely closed. For example, the biology StackExchange also has a lot of lay public, but they allow these sort of questions: intro, history, algorithms. Those are just ones I gave answers to, they seem to have a whole tag. – Artem Kaznatcheev Jan 27 '15 at 19:01

Book recommendations are not, in my view, appropriate for a cognitive science SE. Asking what the "best" book for something is does not make sense in cognitive science, though if you are coming from neuroscience, I can understand the sentiment. In cognitive science, such a question usually has infinite answers, and it is impossible to rank them in any meaningful way.

Book reviews, however, are apt for this site. I've tried to give a book review in response to a reasonably well-formulated question here, Is the book “The Cambridge Handbook of Expertise and Expert Performance” worth reading? This is a question which, while not possible to quantify, is ultimately still possible to answer objectively by reference to the book's contents and intellectual merit in its proper context. For Artem's pop-sci book example above, I think even most lay readers would recognize the pop-science for what it is under these conditions.

The difference mainly lies in whether the question specifies a (set of) book(s) or not. If it does, then it is appropriate.


Based on two closure tests (1, 2) of book recommendation questions that both quickly succeeded, one of which had already been answered and accepted, I would say that community consensus is against book recommendations being within-scope.

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