…o Smart, Why Aren’t You Happy?. The article explains that people who are “intelligent,” or just over analytical in nature, end up being less happy. They see through the BS of everyday life and are able to spot the negatives faster than any positives. This is the problem with HN: The community is too smart for its own good. As a 20-something-year-old tech bro, I’m no stranger to this attitude of “I’m smarter than you, so I’m going to pick your ideas apart and tell you exactly why you’re wrong.” It’s a mindset I’ve moved away f…

It’s entirely too kind to the phenomenon to call it “over analytical” or “smart”.

Consider how often you’ve seen a study headline (or pop science summary) receive comments saying that the reported effect could be explained by XYZ factor that the study authors aren’t considering. For a while I had a practice of going and looking at the study when I saw people leaving those comments. A large portion of the time I found the commenter’s iamverysmart explanation had been explicitly controlled for in the study design, and an even larger amount of the time it was at least addressed in the text. I spent a while copy-pasting these things into replies to the (lauded! upvoted!) commenters, but it was like moving a lake with a spoon1.

It is in no way “over analytical” to pop off with “well here’s my rationalization of this result I don’t like the sound of” without reading the source – it’s a rejection of analysis!

I wonder if it’s a kind of US-classroom-culture making people think their zero-effort “insight” is worth sharing. Like, “I don’t want to bother updating my priors here” is one thing, but to bother writing it down, trying to tell other people it’s not worth consideration… Oof.

(The effect shows up outside study-reading where you might attribute it to “science language is hard”. There are about a million fair things you could criticize about the Gemini protocol project, but the number of “checkmate atheists”-style comments I’ve read raising things explicitly listed in the faq without acknowledging the perspective there… it’s a large number.)

  1. Eventually I stopped checking and just started assuming that any substantive counter-analysis to one of these studies would at least be posted independently, not in a comment section. That heuristic’s been working… pretty okay I think? I still seem to read a decent amount of debunking and argument.