Negativity (when applied with rigor) requires more care than positivity

Andrew Gelman over at his website:

Tyler Cowen writes:

Avoid criticizing other public intellectuals. In fact, avoid the negative as much as possible. However pressing a social or economic issue may be, there is almost always a positive and constructive way to reframe your potential contribution. This also will force you to keep on thinking harder, because it is easier to take apparently justified negative slaps at the wrongdoers.

This is not my approach, so it might be worth exploring our differences here.

1. Most importantly, there’s division of labor, or the ecosystem. I think it’s good to have some writers who are positive and others who are negative. Each of us has our own style. If Cowen is comfortable being positive most of the time and that works for him, that’s cool.

2. Regarding my own negativity: one thing I’ve found is that often I will start from a positive, constructive perspective but then move to the negative after a series of frustrations.

For example, I thought the newspaper columnist David Brooks had some interesting insights regarding Bobos, Red and Blue America, etc., but I gradually got frustrated at his sloppiness and his refusal to correct his mistakes. Where do you draw the line between making a mistake and flat-out lying? I’m not sure.

This comes up a lot: the beauty-and-sex-ratio research, the Why We Sleep book, Pizzagate, ESP at Cornell, ovulation-and-clothing, etc etc etc. People make mistakes, we discuss these mistakes in a constructive way, and we reach escalating levels of frustration as the promulgators of these errors refuse to consider the possibility they may be wrong.

But that’s all background. Here’s my main point:

3. Negativity (when applied with rigor) requires more care than positivity.

More here.