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Thread: The psychology of the forums (including this one?)

  1. #1 The psychology of the forums (including this one?) 
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    Since I guess there should be one or two qualified psychologists frequenting this area of the forum would any of them be in a position to say whether this is an active and useful area of research?

    I am not so much thinking about the phenomenon of social media per se but whether more specifically there are behaviours on this or other forums that can be analysed simply with reference to the narrow context of the pattern of postings.

    Would ,for example there be an"body language" that could be identified in the postings.

    The reason I began to think of this is that ,without naming names I have found it a little difficult to divine the real purpose behind some postings.

    On a science forum these attitudes can be camouflaged beneath a genuine search for knowledge and sometimes that doesn't really seem the only reason.

    Again might I be right to think that this recent phenomenon of forums is distinct enough to deserve its own particular research?


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    Forum Radioactive Isotope zinjanthropos's Avatar
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    Would you want to admit to being a qualified psychologist on a science forum? Isn't the jury still out on whether psychology is even a science to begin with? I believe there have been some threads to that affect hereat TSF.

    Personally I think the most interesting aspect of the forum besides actual scientific contribution is the membership. Words mean a lot, quality and tone of post also, especially if one tries to perform a psych evaluation of the poster. However there is a known element present that renders any evaluation somewhat moot, and that is anonymity. Can anyone discern excellent chicanery from truthfulness? IOW the art of deception is a very good tool to have in the bag. Still one can have fun with it, form opinions and conclusions, develop impressions, imagine and analyze. What you discover may not be the truth but there's still a chance it is.


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    Genius Duck Moderator Dywyddyr's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by geordief View Post
    Again might I be right to think that this recent phenomenon of forums is distinct enough to deserve its own particular research?
    Possibly.
    But unless you also have access to how those people act in "real life" how can you make the study scientific?
    There's no way to tell if they're dissembling.
    Caveat: it would be possible to tell if they make some posts in a manner different from their regular ones, but we all have off days or go at a tangent sometimes just because.
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    I am not a qualified psychologist, but I am often fascinated by crackpots who post on science forums. Many common characteristics can be identified. There's the grandiose delusions, the word salad which they think is perfectly logical, the conspiracy theories when people don't accept their discoveries, etc. These people often seem otherwise intelligent. They are resourceful and persistent.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Dywyddyr View Post
    Possibly.
    But unless you also have access to how those people act in "real life" how can you make the study scientific?
    Ok so we can just continue to form our own opinions .

    On the other hand ,if people are brought to court for some misdemeanour or other I guess their relevant postings could be adduced as evidence in the case and could be interesting.

    There was a time when I used to wander into minor courtrooms in the public gallery for my own amusement and edification but that is by the way.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Harold14370 View Post
    I am not a qualified psychologist, but I am often fascinated by crackpots who post on science forums. Many common characteristics can be identified. There's the grandiose delusions, the word salad which they think is perfectly logical, the conspiracy theories when people don't accept their discoveries, etc. These people often seem otherwise intelligent. They are resourceful and persistent.
    Yes I noticed that .It is hilarious.
    But some are mentally ill and I am sure lots of us (I sure have) have come across acquaintances in that boat and so mockery seems cruel to me.
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    I think it's useful because people can conceal their identities on forums (Internet in general), something that is very difficult to do in everyday life, so they get to let it all hang out. So, maybe one's online presence is more like being on the proverbial psychologist's couch than people would be otherwise.

    There's also the distinct possibility (or wishful thinking) that they can be "killed" (ie, banned) and be reincarnated (ie, sockpuppet). Besides, there's other forums to join after being banned from one of them.

    So we're talking about psychoanalyzing all of us. I think we'd be at least a little bit surprised to discover who we all are.

    a little difficult to divine the real purpose behind some postings
    Oh yeah, and good luck with that. I think it very common that someone will ask another for clarification of posts ("what are you getting at?", "are you saying that...").
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    Quote Originally Posted by jrmonroe View Post

    So we're talking about psychoanalyzing all of us. I think we'd be at least a little bit surprised to discover who we all are.
    That reminds me of when you hear your own voice on the phone .It is a bit shocking since we hear our own voice through our skull (I think) and so the voice we hear when it is recorded sounds like it belongs to some body else.
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    Forum Radioactive Isotope zinjanthropos's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by jrmonroe View Post
    I think it's useful because people can conceal their identities on forums (Internet in general), something that is very difficult to do in everyday life, so they get to let it all hang out. So, maybe one's online presence is more like being on the proverbial psychologist's couch than people would be otherwise.
    It can work both ways. A declared member scientist could be a fraud or a member claiming not to be a scientist may also be lying. So when psychoanalyzing the forum there is always that element of doubt about its members. Can we be sure that people here are interested in science for the most part? I mean what can we say with certainty about the members other than the fact they registered to become one?

    Found this
    All that belongs to human understanding, in this deep ignorance and obscurity, is to be skeptical, or at least cautious; and not to admit of any hypothesis, whatsoever; much less, of any which is supported by no appearance of probability...Hume
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    Quote Originally Posted by zinjanthropos View Post

    Found this
    thanks.
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    Forum Radioactive Isotope zinjanthropos's Avatar
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    For some reason I can't copy it but the 7th paragraph of that article I found particularly interesting. Don't think it applies much here but could removing the poster have the same affect as removing the post?
    All that belongs to human understanding, in this deep ignorance and obscurity, is to be skeptical, or at least cautious; and not to admit of any hypothesis, whatsoever; much less, of any which is supported by no appearance of probability...Hume
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    If there wasn't a forum it would be necessary to invent one. Didn't all this begin in ancient Rome?
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    Picking hairs you would say it was in Greece (the Agora ) but doubtless it predates that too.

    it is just that it was such a prominent feature of Greek political culture at the time (so far as I remember from school) that I think modern day Greeks and Hellenophiles would be offended if it was thought it had been started by Rome.
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    Quote Originally Posted by zinjanthropos View Post
    For some reason I can't copy it but the 7th paragraph of that article I found particularly interesting. Don't think it applies much here but could removing the poster have the same affect as removing the post?
    Did you mean this part?
    EDIT: sorry, I thought I got the wrong paragraph so I corrected my post.
    Several weeks ago, on September 24th, Popular Science announced that it would banish comments from its Web site. The editors argued that Internet comments, particularly anonymous ones, undermine the integrity of science and lead to a culture of aggression and mockery that hinders substantive discourse. “Even a fractious minority wields enough power to skew a reader’s perception of a story,” wrote the online-content director Suzanne LaBarre, citing a recent study from the University of Wisconsin-Madison as evidence. While it’s tempting to blame the Internet, incendiary rhetoric has long been a mainstay of public discourse. Cicero, for one, openly called Mark Antony a “public prostitute,” concluding, “but let us say no more of your profligacy and debauchery.” What, then, has changed with the advent of online comments?




    Anonymity, for one thing. According to a September Pew poll, a quarter of Internet users have posted comments anonymously. As the age of a user decreases, his reluctance to link a real name with an online remark increases; forty per cent of people in the eighteen-to-twenty-nine-year-old demographic have posted anonymously. One of the most common critiques of online comments cites a disconnect between the commenter’s identity and what he is saying, a phenomenon that the psychologist John Suler memorably termed the “online disinhibition effect.” The theory is that the moment you shed your identity the usual constraints on your behavior go, too—or, to rearticulate the 1993 Peter Steiner cartoon, on the Internet, nobody knows you’re not a dog. When Arthur Santana, a communications professor at the University of Houston, analyzed nine hundred randomly chosen user comments on articles about immigration, half from newspapers that allowed anonymous postings, such as the Los Angeles Times and the Houston Chronicle, and half from ones that didn’t, including USA Today and the Wall Street Journal, he discovered that anonymity made a perceptible difference: a full fifty-three per cent of anonymous commenters were uncivil, as opposed to twenty-nine per cent of registered, non-anonymous commenters. Anonymity, Santana concluded, encouraged incivility.


    On the other hand, anonymity has also been shown to encourage participation; by promoting a greater sense of community identity, users don’t have to worry about standing out individually. Anonymity can also boost a certain kind of creative thinking and lead to improvements in problem-solving. In a study that examined student learning, the psychologists Ina Blau and Avner Caspi found that, while face-to-face interactions tended to provide greater satisfaction, in anonymous settings participation and risk-taking flourished.


    Anonymous forums can also be remarkably self-regulating: we tend to discount anonymous or pseudonymous comments to a much larger degree than commentary from other, more easily identifiable sources. In a 2012 study of anonymity in computer interactions, researchers found that, while anonymous comments were more likely to be contrarian and extreme than non-anonymous ones, they were also far less likely to change a subject’s opinion on an ethical issue, echoing earlier results from the University of Arizona. In fact, as the Stanford computer scientist Michael Bernstein found when he analyzed the /b/ board of 4chan, an online discussion forum that has been referred to as the Internet’s “rude, raunchy underbelly” and where over ninety per cent of posts are wholly anonymous, mechanisms spontaneously emerged to monitor user interactions and establish a commenter’s status as more or less influential—and credible.


    Owing to the conflicting effects of anonymity, and in response to the changing nature of online publishing itself, Internet researchers have begun shifting their focus away from anonymity toward other aspects of the online environment, such as tone and content. The University of Wisconsin-Madison study that Popular Science cited, for instance, was focussed on whether comments themselves, anonymous or otherwise, made people less civil. The authors found that the nastier the comments, the more polarized readers became about the contents of the article, a phenomenon they dubbed the “nasty effect.” But the nasty effect isn’t new, or unique to the Internet. Psychologists have long worried about the difference between face-to-face communication and more removed ways of talking—the letter, the telegraph, the phone. Without the traditional trappings of personal communication, like non-verbal cues, context, and tone, comments can become overly impersonal and cold.


    But a ban on article comments may simply move them to a different venue, such as Twitter or Facebook—from a community centered around a single publication or idea to one without any discernible common identity. Such large group environments, in turn, often produce less than desirable effects, including a diffusion of responsibility: you feel less accountable for your own actions, and become more likely to engage in amoral behavior. In his classic work on the role of groups and media exposure in violence, the social cognitive psychologist Alfred Bandura found that, as personal responsibility becomes more diffused in a group, people tend to dehumanize others and become more aggressive toward them. At the same time, people become more likely to justify their actions in self-absolving ways. Multiple studies have also illustrated that when people don’t think they are going to be held immediately accountable for their words they are more likely to fall back on mental shortcuts in their thinking and writing, processing information less thoroughly. They become, as a result, more likely to resort to simplistic evaluations of complicated issues, as the psychologist Philip Tetlock has repeatedly found over several decades of research on accountability.


    Removing comments also affects the reading experience itself: it may take away the motivation to engage with a topic more deeply, and to share it with a wider group of readers. In a phenomenon known as shared reality, our experience of something is affected by whether or not we will share it socially. Take away comments entirely, and you take away some of that shared reality, which is why we often want to share or comment in the first place. We want to believe that others will read and react to our ideas.

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