Talking about other people's gut reactions to a set

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theMoMA
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Talking about other people's gut reactions to a set

Post by theMoMA » Thu Apr 03, 2014 12:40 pm

I've noticed that lots of people have been criticizing tournaments by invoking some kind of general sentiment or consensus opinion about a set, or talking about other people's gut reactions, and I think both are problematic for three reasons.

First, players' gut reactions aren't a good gauge of a set because (1) people don't remember things perfectly, and (2) even if they do, gut reactions themselves aren't necessarily accurate. To the first point, people tend to remember things that stand out (like a player reacting with frustration to a particular tossup) over things that don't (like that same player being satisfied with the majority of tossups in the set). People also tend to have a confirmation bias: to remember things that support their own beliefs and forget things that don't. To the second point ("gut reactions themselves aren't necessarily accurate"), people don't always say what they mean, or mean what they say, when they're talking about questions in the heat of competition. I have often complained about a tossup that, upon a later and more neutral reflection, turned out to be perfectly fine. So even if you think another player really disliked the set or a certain portion of it, you might be wrong, either because you're remembering it imperfectly, or because the other person's words in the heat of competition don't reflect their true feelings.

Second, to the extent this phenomenon takes the form of an appeal to an anonymous or unspecified authority, it's not helpful at all. Vague allusions to other people not liking a set are not falsifiable and serve no rhetorical point but to throw pretend weight behind your own argument; avoid them.

Third, and most importantly, even if you're correct that another person actually disliked the set, and make a falsifiable claim about their opinions, you're still putting words in their mouth. One of the best functions of this forum is to allow each player a chance to sit back and reflect on the set before posting a fully formed criticism. When you relay a secondhand account of another player's gut reactions, you're taking that player's opinion away from them and putting it in your own words to serve your own argument. And you might misremember or misconstrue the other person's criticisms, or fail to reflect their opinion of the set on further reflection.

I get that it's super easy to relate when other people seem frustrated, and that it often seems relevant to discussion, especially when something about a set seemed problematic to many people. I'm sure I've done it many times. But if an aspect of a set was truly problematic to many people, allow those people the opportunity to articulate their own viewpoint. We're better off when we let everyone post their own thoughts in their own words.

(On a related note, people who have opinions about sets should be more diligent about relaying those opinions on this forum to give editors better feedback on their work; instead of posting about another person's gut reaction, you might instead encourage that person to post if it's been a couple days after the tournament and they still haven't.)
Andrew Hart
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Cheynem
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Re: Talking about other people's gut reactions to a set

Post by Cheynem » Thu Apr 03, 2014 2:59 pm

Yeah, I'll say that people, including myself, lie during matches all the time. By "lie," I don't mean I sit down and plan out a masterful plan of stunning deception while twirling a mustache, it's just that, there are times when you say "yeah, that was transparent" in a match as a bit of meaningless banter, sometimes because you don't want to admit you got beat, sometimes because you misheard something, sometimes because, I dunno, you just said it because you're hungry. In-game reactions, paradoxically, are odd and frequently faulty ways of judging question quality.
Mike Cheyne
Formerly U of Minnesota

"You killed HSAPQ"--Matt Bollinger

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