Taking Aim

The Psychology of Not Submitting to Psybernetika

Sven van de Wettering
Department of Psychology
Simon Fraser University

Randy has been pestering me for some time to submit something to Psybernetika. I resisted his appeals until the day he set fire to my desk and threatened to e-mail obscene messages to my supervisor in my name, but now that I've agreed to submit something, I am puzzled by two important questions. First, what on earth am I going to write about? Second, why am I so reluctant to submit something, when my goal as a psychology graduate student should be to have every stray thought that ever passes through my head written up and published? It's not everyone who has a journal editor requesting submissions with such forthrightness. After some musing on these two questions, I decided to solve them both by writing an article for Psybernetika on the psychology of not submitting articles to Psybernetika.

Based on a cursory introspection of my own motives for non-submission, I have come to the conclusion that a good part of the problem is just simply fence-sitting. I have opinions, but I lack the confidence to set my name to them and assert that they are absolutely true, beyond a shadow of a doubt. I prefer to say, "well, I think this, but the people who disagree with me have some good arguments on their side, and I don't want to offend them by disagreeing with them too forcefully." Needless to say, if everybody took this position, an awful lot of articles which are now in print would never have been written, and many authors in the "publish or perish" world of academia would have expired by now. Did you ever hear of the man who came down firmly on both sides of the fence and did himself a serious injury?

So now, to justify having knuckled under to Randy's extortion, I have to find a new way of looking at the act of submitting articles to Psybernetika. According to my old way of thinking, submitting an article was a declaration of war between the forces of Good (i.e. me) and the forces of Evil (i.e. those benighted souls who actually disagree with me). Thus, anything I could possibly submit would carry with it a sort of implicit statement of the form: "This is my unshakable conviction, which I shall defend to the death. Now, with my new way of thinking, submitting something to Psybernetika becomes more analogous to serving the ball in a game of tennis. Suddenly, the implicit statement accompanying my submission becomes: "Here's the ball. Why don't you hit it back to me with a new spin on it." Of course I can bluster and pretend that I think the people who disagree with me are idiots, but that's just part of the game.

Having given you my very informal introspections on the subject of non-submission to Psybernetika, I would like to make it sound more impressive by adding a bunch of big words from various branches of psychology.

Attribution Theory

Attribution theorists are social psychologists who use tons of big words about the way people think about why people do things. An attribution theorist would be interested in the way people who don't submit articles to Psybernetika (henceforth to be referred to as "non- submitters") think about why people who do submit articles to Psybernetika (whom I shall subsequently refer to as "submitters") submit those articles. Given that I'm much too lazy to actually conduct a study (Geez, I would still have to write it up afterwards!), I am reduced to speculating on what a series of theoretical studies in attribution might reveal.

I suspect that most non-submitters are people that have great respect for the written word. When they were kids in elementary school, their teachers drummed it into them that black letters on white paper were something so important and wonderful that it might as well be a gift direct from God. Thus authors, by extension, also partook of the divine spark, and were to be treated with the greatest reverence. As the kids grew older and entered university, they were shocked to discover that a lot of lip service was paid to the notion of taking a critical stance toward the writings of various authors. Nevertheless, they (the non-submitters) soon realized that this was only lip service, and that it was still okay to revere authors as long as one faked a critical stance.

One day, the non-submitters were confronted by a wild- eyed fellow named Randy Tonks, who claimed to be the editor of a new internet journal. Randy encouraged the non- submitters to read the journal and see what it was like, and the non-submitters discovered that the articles had all been written by authors! This led the non-submitters to make an attribution about the motives of the submitters. Because the submitters were authors, and therefore worthy of reverence, it followed that the submitters had written their submissions because they were divinely inspired. After a brief moment of introspection, the non-submitters concluded that they were not divinely inspired, and therefore did not have the type of motivation which would be necessary to justify submitting something to Psybernetika.

An attribution theorist would probably recommend some form of cognitive therapy to transform non-submitters into submitters. If non-submitters could be trained to attribute others' submissions to Psybernetika as a manifestation of anxiety over their academic futures, the non-submitters would be much more likely to submit in future.


Psychoanalysis is a very famous psychological paradigm whose chief function seems to be to be intensely maligned by adherents of other psychological paradigms.

An astute psychoanalyst might make the observation that every psychology student beyond first year has already written at least one paper on some sort of psychological topic. This means that non-submitters already have something which would be potentially submittable to Psybernetika. Despite this fact, non-submitters deliberately retain these potential submissions for themselves rather than letting them go out into the outside world. If this isn't a classic sign of non-submitters' psychosexual development being arrested at the anal stage, I don't know what is. Immediate psychoanalytic intervention is called for.

Evolutionary Psychology

Evolutionary psychology attempts to go beyond behavior and its immediate causes, and look instead at ultimate causes. Ultimate causes are the circumstances in the ancestral environment (i.e. back in the good old days when all your ancestors were named "Ugh," and their social interaction consisted of hitting each other over the head with clubs) which made it advantageous for people to have a tendency to behave in one way rather than another.

From this point of view, the tendency to avoid submitting to Psybernetika is eminently adaptive. Imagine a cave person with a tendency to submit articles to Psybernetika. Such an individual would spend her/his days looking for a Macintosh computer, rather than foraging, forming strong social bonds with other members of the social group, and seducing members of the opposite sex. This would lead to that individual's genes (including the genes which create a behavioral tendency to submit articles to Psybernetika) being underrepresented in the subsequent generation, and the gene for submitting would quickly be culled from the gene pool. Thus, evolutionary psychology is very good at explaining non-submitting. As for the problem of why some people do submit to Psybernetika, that is beyond the scope of the present paper.

Qwertyuiopasdfghjklzxcvbnm Psychology

This is a new branch of psychology recently developed at the sfcftsotacp. Its sole purpose is to confuse lay people even more than other branches of psychology do. It achieves this goal by using longer, more complicated words than any other branch of psychology, as well as by formulating its ideas in long, meandering sentences, full of digressions about the author's undying devotion to his wife, as well as observations about the state of the world (which would be much better off if all the polluters, criminals, communists, capitalists, religious fanatics, atheists, agnostics, religious moderates, and people who say bad things about the sfcftsotacp were stood up against a wall and shot), and which, when they finally get to the point, manage to meander away from the psychological issue at hand and into another digression about how much the author hates St. Patrick's Day parties, so that in fact, the only way to find out what qwertyuiopasdfghjklzxcvbnm psychology is all about is by means of telepathy, which is just fine, because if you don't already agree with our point of view, why should we bother to explain it to you? Some of the key terms in this psychological paradigm are "reformed pseudofoundationalist antidisestablishmentarianism," "diffuse preparadigmatic deconstructive shoe stigmatization," and "sfcftsotacp."

A qwertyuiopasdfghjklzxcvbnm psychologist would interpret failure to submit something to Psybernetika as a manifestation of a protracted intrapsychic conflict between the plokijuhyqawsed component of the psyche and the component that wants to go to the pub and get a beer.

The therapeutic intervention which would be advocated by the majority of qwertyuiopasdfghjklzxcvbnm psychologists would be to give in to the impulses of that portion of the psyche that wants to go to the pub to get a beer. Despite this very reasonable opinion held by the majority, a sizable minority of qwertyuiopasdfghjklzxcvbnm psychologists would propose the heretical notion of going down to the pub to get a slice of pizza instead.


One interesting finding of the different theoretical approaches to non-submission which have been surveyed above is that, although they all disagree with each other on many things (such as each other's right to continue to besmirch the world with their presence), they all (except the evolutionary psychological approach, which should really stop besmirching the world with its presence) agree that non- submission is a serious pathological condition which requires intensive therapy. The only hope for YOU, dear reader, is to submit something quickly, before the marauding bands of therapists come to get you!

About The Author

Sven van de Wetering is a Ph.D. student in psychology, whose major area of academic interest is intergroup relations, but whose true ambition is to live blissfully on a remote island with his beloved wife.