I am writing a paper with a psychology professor friend of mine on why we should get amateurs (like myself) more involved in the “knowledge work” of psychological research (gathering observational data, designing and implementing experiments, generating hypotheses, data analysis, etc.) and how we can do so. There are a few pieces to the puzzle, but the simple answer of why we should get amateurs involved in psychology research is that by virtue of being outsiders to academia, amateurs (by which we mean basically any smart person who is not directly getting paid to do psychological research or isn’t in training to be a paid researcher like graduate students), are subject to very different constraints and incentives than the vast majority of professional researchers and thus can think and work in ways that they might not be able to. It is precisely in these areas, which we refer to as “blind spots” (as in academia is systematically biased away from seeing/exploring these areas), where amateurs should work in order to advance psychology. In the remainder of this essay, I will share a few sections from the draft where we propose different blind spots in academic psychology along with some additional commentary, but before I do that I want to flesh out this concept of a blind spot a little more and provide some examples.
(In the landscape of ideas, we may think of peaks as areas of good ideas (rational, useful, interesting, etc.) and valleys as bad ideas. Our challenge then - as individuals and as a species - is to optimize our exploration of the landscape. One thing that “landscape thinking” makes clear is the problem of being trapped on a local optima; the best strategy is not 100% hill-climbing - sometimes you need to go through a valley of bad ideas to find a new peak. See Exploring the Landscape of Scientific Minds for another perspective on landscape thinking.)