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It surprises me how nasty some folks are on their blogs. Not civil at all. Would you talk to people in person like that? Just because one's blogging doesn't mean they can't be professional. Great thoughts.


Really excellent thoughts. I always read your blog but this is the first time I've commented. Two cheers for civility and skepticism.

Lee Jussim


Great post, as usual. Incivility is both a real problem ("shut up," "calm down," "shameless little bullies,") and a problem of perception. If I say, "Simine, you are wrong about X," I know you -- YOU will react as if we are having a discussion, and you will calmly explain why you think you are right. You will probably end up moving me, at least a little, in your direction. However, in my experience, you are the exception rather than the rule.

I blogged about the difficulty of saying, "X is wrong" a while ago. Interested readers can go here to find it:

The problem is that many of our colleagues treat suggestions that their cherished beliefs are wrong as personal attacks, or as platforms for circling the wagons to "eject" the verboten claim from "acceptable" science.

And if any reader of this blog has any doubts about how hard it is to point out evidence suggesting that social scientists' cherished beliefs may not always hold true, I strongly recommend this:


Civility is truly important because it creates a safe space for actual intellectual diversity and disagreement, which itself is crucial for limiting the science-damaging effects of politically-motivated groupthink on politicized and polarizing topics.

So many of our colleagues claim to support diversity -- and as long as that means demographic categories, they generally mean it. But as soon as it means intellectual diversity -- embracing people with ideas very different than their own -- not so much. Which strikes me as ironic because one of the arguments I have often heard for demographic diversity goes like this: "People from different backgrounds will bring different ideas and experiences to the table, and that is good for all of us."

Great! I agree. So let's put that premium on people with different ideas and experiences! (in addition to, not instead of, demographics).


Sam Schwarzkopf

Great post, I totally agree. Maybe I should try to agree in an uncivil way to restore balance to the universe?

A while ago I wrote a blog post on this topic trying to suggest ways in which to improve the civility and productivity of these kinds of debates. I have no idea if the ideas work in practice but I don't see many other people trying: https://neuroneurotic.wordpress.com/2015/03/29/ten-ish-simple-rules-for-scientific-disagreements/

I spent most of 2014 arguing that science needs skepticism otherwise we end up with even more incredible findings (or even credible-but-wrong ones). Perhaps one of the biggest problems with this is that all too often and too easily we end up viewing our theories (and the findings supporting them) as our brain children and we get unduly attached to them.

We should instead encourage and train ourselves (and our students) to engage in strong inference in which we adjudicate between different hypotheses. This is perhaps often quite hard to do in our field but not impossible. Instead of seeking to prove some cool idea we should try to pick the more likely explanation by trying to disprove all of the options we can think of.

Of course, the culture of high impact publishing is partly to blame for this sorry state of affairs. I honestly don't know how this can be changed unless we just abandon the use of journals altogether (or at least remove the decision about where to publish completely from the authors).

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