How not to explain

  • cite useless (albeit accurate or amusing) information from a tangentially related academic field. This is the seductive allure (Hopkins et al, 2016).
  • make your explanation unnecessarily long. This is the longer-is-better cognitive bias (Kikas, 2003).
  • rush to provide purpose, goal, or reason for things happening (Lombrozo & Carey, 2006), even if these things do not help us understand the very phenomenon being explained.
  • pepper your explanation with neurobabble (Fernandez-Duque et al, 2015).
  • offer reductive (albeit useless) information from more "fundamental" discipline. This is the reductive allure. It could "work" if you go from social science to psychology to neuroscience to biology to chemistry to physics (Hopkins et al, 2016).
  • sneak in fallacies here and there, especially the kind (e.g., ad verecundiam, ad ignorantiam) seemingly providing an aura of respectability to an otherwise spurious explanation (Walton, 2010).