Psychologizing

“Psy­chol­o­giz­ing” is when we go past ar­gu­ing that a po­si­tion is in fact wrong, and start con­sid­er­ing what could have gone wrong in peo­ple’s minds to make them be­lieve some­thing so wrong. Real­is­ti­cally, we can’t en­tirely avoid psy­chol­o­giz­ing—some­times cog­ni­tive bi­ases are real and un­der­stand­ing how they po­ten­tially ap­ply is im­por­tant. Nonethe­less, since psy­chol­o­giz­ing is po­ten­tially a per­ni­cious and poi­sonous ac­tivity, Ar­bital’s dis­cus­sion norms say to ex­plic­itly tag or green­link with “Psy­chol­o­giz­ing” each place where you spec­u­late about the psy­chol­ogy of how peo­ple could pos­si­bly be so wrong. Again, psy­chol­o­giz­ing isn’t nec­es­sar­ily wrong—some­times peo­ple do make mis­takes for sys­tem­atic psy­cholog­i­cal rea­sons that are un­der­stand­able—but it’s dan­ger­ous, po­ten­tially de­gen­er­ates ex­tremely quickly, and de­serves to be high­lighted each and ev­ery time.

If you go off on an ex­tended dis­course about why some­body is men­tally bi­ased or think­ing poorly, be­fore you’ve ar­gued on the ob­ject level that they are in fact mis­taken about the sub­ject mat­ter, this is Bul­verism. Bul­verism is flatly not okay on Ar­bital. If you want to spec­u­late about what goes wrong in the minds of peo­ple who be­lieve in UFOs, then a good way of do­ing this on Ar­bital would be to first link a page ar­gu­ing that there are in fact no UFOs, and say “I think this page es­tab­lishes there are no UFOs; if you’re not fa­mil­iar with the ar­gu­ments, read that first. Given that I think there are in fact no UFOs, I will now psy­chol­o­gize about why peo­ple would mis­tak­enly be­lieve in UFOs…”

If that clear la­bel makes your page less snappy, per­sua­sive, and fun to read, please con­sider that to be an in­tended effect of this rule. Psy­chol­o­giz­ing is fun and that’s why we want to take steps against it com­ing to dom­i­nate dis­cus­sions here.

Children:

  • Bulverism

    Bul­verism is when you ex­plain what goes so hor­ribly wrong in peo­ple’s minds when they be­lieve X, be­fore you’ve ac­tu­ally ex­plained why X is wrong. For­bid­den on Ar­bital.

Parents: