Of angry scientists and other psychological phenomena in academia

By Joern Fischer

HEALTH WARNING: This entry features seriously ill-informed hobby psychological assessments!

Many people think that science is about science. Well, I think science is all about people. Here are a few hypotheses (to be mistrusted and refuted) about people in science.

1. There are those who are attracted by the big picture and those who like details. Those who love the big picture think of new theories and frameworks, but they’re probably awful at identifying plant species. Many administrators are good with details; many scientists are not. Explicitly recognising this key gradient in how people differ helps in overcoming communication problems.

2. Most scientists use their heads a lot, but are far less good at listening to their heart. I’d argue we’d be in a more complete world if we each learn to listen to both. Academic training can ruin intuition, because the  (vague) value of intuition is implicitly disregarded by academic methods.

3. Science as we know it can make us judgmental and stupid. Despite there being facts, the world is about far more than those facts. Knowing the facts is but a very small part of reaching solutions in the real world. Those who passionately preach their facts waiting for the world to awaken to them will often get frustrated. And frustrated scientists can turn angry (see picture above for a rather serious case).

4. Interdisciplinary teamwork has little to do with disciplinary fit, and a lot to do with personal fit. Mostly, people think about who complements who in an academic sense. I think we’d be better off thinking about who can work with who, in terms of personalities. The academic fit then follows.

5. Similar people cluster in academia. Some clusters are full of “thinkers”, some full of “feelers”, some full of “details people”, and some full of “the big picture”. This probably is the result of us finding it easiest to deal with similar people. I’d argue working with similar people makes everyday life easier and thereby assures good progress; but occasionally working with really different people may be a good recipe for truly broadening one’s horizon.

6. Many of the most vocal scientists are safely ignored. By contrast, tremendous wisdom is often found within the ‘second tier’ — who reflect on their insights rather than shout them at the world.

7. You’ve made it to the bottom of this outrageously ill-informed blog entry. You can leave your complaints in the comments below …     🙂



One thought on “Of angry scientists and other psychological phenomena in academia

  1. Why “ill-informed” blog-entry? Because it was “only” informed by your intuition and not backed-up by scientific literature on psychology…? (-;

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