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October 2016
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Can possible reasons for unsupported opinions be understood, explained and contribute anything to Untold Arsenal?


An observation by AKH


Untold Arsenal is a website which uses the important notion of evidence based research and argument to outline a position, viewpoint or idea. For this current season I have been observing that a number of opinions have been given on the website, some even overtly aggressive, without reference to much evidence if any at all!

Furthermore, trawling through other so-called Arsenal supporter websites and referring to various Arsenal social media groups on You tube; Facebook; Twitter etc, a similar pattern seems to prevail with opinion being the norm, but little or no evidence to support the opinion other than personal observation. Similarly with the national media, and especially the opinions of punditry personified by ex-professional footballers.

Can possible reasons for such unsupported opinions be understood and even explained?

It is my contention that the nature of evidence based research and argument is difficult to comprehend for many people and thus such people revert to ‘their concrete coping strategies’ in order to try to make their point of view accepted.

In past Untold Arsenal articles, Tony Attwoood has occasionally referred to the work and model of the behavioural psychologist, B F Skinner. Two developmental psychologists, Piaget and Inhelder suggest a model to represent  how people develop their thinking and reasoning capability throughout their lives (although original research concentrated on such development in children).

I hasten to add that all models are representations of reality but some are more powerful and hence more useful than others.

Their view is that people must construct their own knowledge. Bits of information and experiences can be provided but only when a person has actively put these together for him/herself has the knowledge become their own  They further suggest that there are a number of stages through which people from a very young age upwards to and through adulthood pass, as they develop new thinking and reasoning capability.

Two particular stages of thinking and reasoning exhibited by people can be termed ‘the concrete stage’ and ‘the formal stage.

Concrete thinking and reasoning. The early stage

There is great growth in language development – words are used to represent thought as opposed to actions. However, language acquisition and reasoning ability are not necessarily synonymous. Language does not completely impose on the person the culturally desirable ways of thinking.

  • The person is more likely to distort language to fit its own mental structure.
  • The person is perception prone or perceptually predisposed. I.e., the person judges by what is seen rather than by logical reasoning. (if it looks different it is different)
  • The person does think but does not think about ones own thinking (is not reflective)
  • The person has a tendency to centre. (Concentrates on one attribute of an object at a time, ignoring other characteristics).
  • The person has little notion of reversibility – thinking in one direction only.
  • The person cannot cope too well with transformations (changes in sequence) and thus concentrates on the start and the end and pays little attention to the ‘in-betweens’
  • The person is egocentric – the person is the centre of the universe, everything revolves around the person.
  • The person can only consider one thing at a time and is unable to consider another person’s viewpoint simultaneously with their own.

Concrete thinking and reasoning. The later stage

  • The person can perform mental operations on real objects, events, ideas, but will have difficulty with abstract ideas or verbal generalisations
  • The person has the ability to conserve although some elements will be more difficult than others.
  • The person does not judge by perception alone but also by applying some form of logical reasoning.
  • The person can de-centre.
  • The person recognises simple relationships within transformations
  • The person is less egocentric
  • The person can describe events but has difficulty in explaining events.
  • Continuing with this notion of  later concrete operations, the mental manipulations are becoming more varied and powerful. The developing ability to handle variables such as multiple classification means that problems can be solved in more ordered and quantitative ways than was previously possible.

Transition to the Formal stage of abstract thought.

  • The person can think about one’s thinking (is able to reflect)
  • The person can think about the implication of their actions
  • The person can abstract
  • The person can use propositional logic
  • The person can explain as well as describe events.

This is the stage in which, for some people, the ability to think abstractly is developing. When this development is complete their thought is capable of dealing with the possible and hypothetical and is not tied to the concrete and to the here and now.

Each main stage can be divided into sub-levels. Each sub- level does not replace the preceding level but includes it as part of the new level. According to Piaget, the human species will all move from the lowest to the highest level in the same order, although the rate which this occurs will depend upon a number of factors which can include: genetic factors; factors concerning the maturation of the central nervous system;  factors affecting the environment.

Now consider these observations…

 “My grandmother is 76 years old and has smoked all of her life. She does not have lung cancer! So I do not believe you when you say that smoking causes lung cancer.”

This person is making a 1 to 1 association that- if you smoke then you will get lung cancer!

Since the grandmother does not have lung cancer, the notion that smoking and lung cancer could be associated is false!

When a group of secondary school children were asked to predict the chance of winning the UK National lottery, a number gave the answer that there was a 50% chance of winning it. Their explanation being “you either win it or you don’t!”

Here people are utilising so-called concrete thinking as outlined above. Indeed most people will only need to utilise concrete thinking and reasoning capability to live their daily lives. Simple events, ideas or concepts that relate to a person’s existing knowledge and understanding may simply be added into their existing knowledge system and thus act as a further reinforcement of the success/failure of their lives

More complicated events or questions may cause perplexity because they cannot be readily understood. If, with some mental effort, understanding can be reached, it is because the cognitive system has become more powerful in order to take on board  the higher level of thinking required.

Even people who have reached a stage of formal thinking and reasoning capability may not always utilise this capability and might need one or more other people or events to help them realise the type of thinking required.

Evidence based argument is difficult! It requires formal thinking and reasoning capability to understand the nature and the content of the evidence involved as well as the arguments then presented.

Much evidence on Untold Arsenal involves the study of multi-variable systems; the use of statistics involving patterns of correlation and probabilistic theory; the use of systems involving ratio and proportionality; the use of classification systems; of equilibrium systems etc, etc. One often needs to use logical reasoning in order to make the evidence and argument appear meaningful.

Without such formal thinking capability it will be very difficult for a person to make sense of the evidence or of the argument by using concrete thinking and reasoning alone and as such will refuse to accept it or believe it.

This season I believe that on the Untold Arsenal website, a number of contributors are using concrete thinking and reasoning skills to purport a particular viewpoint which, when not accepted or when challenged by the website come back with the same argument as before, time and time again, or even show overt aggression through their use of expletive language towards the website.

Pundits are no different! I would imagine that most football pundits live within their immediate concrete experiences and do not need to or cannot utilise formal thinking and reasoning capability for whatever reason. I may not like and agree with what they say, but I can begin to understand where they are coming from.

Certain pundits are even called football gurus! My response when I see or hear this is  that

“pundits are only called gurus by such people because such people cannot spell the word charlatan.”

Two years ago Arsenal finished 4th in the Premier League. Last year 3rd and this year 2nd. Concrete thinking and reasoning capability suggests to me that next year Arsenal will be……. champions!

However, formal thinking and reasoning capability tells me that next year Arsenal will be………..Champions – Oh well,  I still get by with living in my simpler concrete world.


Hamaker AK and Backwell J (2005) Cognitive Acceleration through Technology Education

Inhelder, B. and Piaget, J. (1958) The Growth of Logical Thinking. London. Routledge and Kegan Paul.

Light, P., Sheldon, S. and Woodhead, M (1991) Learning to Think. London. Routledge.

Shayer, M and Adey, P. (1981) Towards a Science of Science Teaching. London. Heinemann Educational Books.

Trojcak, D.A. (1979) Science with Children. New York. McGraw-Hill Inc

Vygotsky, L.S. (1978) Mind in Society. Cambridge Mass. Harvard University Press.

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And elsewhere appears near the foot of the home page each day reflecting on something odd, or interesting, or both, that happened on this day in history.

21 comments to Can possible reasons for unsupported opinions be understood, explained and contribute anything to Untold Arsenal?

  • Usama Zaka

    Very interesting read. And also thanks for referencing your sources. I have been reading some books of linguistic and etymological topics recently. The psychological aspect and development of thinking surely provides for more interesting reads.

  • insideright

    One of the problems associated with expressing an opinion on blogs these days is that you paint yourself into a corner very, very publicly. In the old days it was only those who stood near you on the terraces or next to you in the pub after the game who knew your views. Now it’s potentially the Arsenal supporting world – and it makes backing down and admitting you were wrong very difficult. Keeping quiet is not an option because people get easily addicted to the attention.
    Logical analysis is also a problem because it takes too much time and requires the attention span above that of the infamous gnat.
    Speed being of the essence (note how people crave to be the first to comment!) little time can be expended in logical thinking or putting events into context.
    Sadly the TV and radio pundits, even though they might have a bit more time and have analysts in the background to help them, still struggle to change their previously given opinions because that would involve admitting they were wrong. They get the job in the first place because they have a perceived ‘image’ and they have to exploit it in order to justify themselves.
    Corners are being painted into left right and centre and while reaction (positive or negative) remains high no one is going to sack them. All very sad.

  • Insideright, it is, I agree very sad, but it is still important to stand up and say what one thinks is right.

    I’ve never suffered abuse in my life as I have since taking on Untold – but it is still important to put forward an evidence based style of writing.

    And it gets easier when articles like this are provided.

  • Andy Mack

    Just to clarify one point.
    We call them ‘Pundits’ because it would be wrong to use their earned title if young children are around!

  • Notoverthehill

    I must admit, I do not waste my time using Facebook or Twitter!

    In my simple world, this article will perform a by-pass, to most readers?

    Since the inception of the English Premier League, only 6 clubs can now claim to be ever-present.

    Only 2 clubs have won more matches, than either have lost, in the Premier League!

    Arsenal, at the start of the Premier League, were a middling club at best.

    Of the 924 matches played in the Premier League to-date, the Arsenal have won 502 of the matches they have played.

    I wonder, who is responsible?

  • Notoverthehill

    Correction, Chelsea have now entered that select list.

    Liverpool, I suspect, will also join the small group, next season.

  • Somerset Gooner

    Thank you AKH, some food for thought and perhaps explains the ‘I want it now’ generation. Great stuff.

  • bushido

    wow, what an interesting article and after i read that article it all make sense and i began to understand what stage of mind and can related to that. for example why some people can be so open minded and behave rationally even when they dont agree to another person opinion coz everyone entitled to their opinion’ dont matter if its right or wrong. and yet some other people were unable to think from different perspective and why or what trigger them to become so abusive and sometimes the insult they spout were so vile and beyond this age of social media when everything you said or video you post will be watch by almost everyone around the world who had access to internet, some of this so call Arsenal fans want their action to be accepted and respect by others but their own action or attitude sometime dont look like they should be respected at all. how come you demand people to respect you if you yourself was so disrespectful to begin with. if Arsenal lost the match you can see all this name’calling,insult,abuse,rant,they hurl to whoever they please without guilt. in every sports you play even in real life you win some and lose some, fuq me’ if that wasnt enough even when Arsenal draw they continued their meltdown. some of this fans is so full of themself, they deeply believe the world do revolves around them’ an egocentric as the article said above. if our (former) skipper M.Arteta decide not to stay as a coach at Arsenal i dont blame him, deep down i know how he feel. can you imagine how his sons feel last season if he goes to this Arsenal fans website on youtube and discover how his dad who is the club captain being treat and portray by some of this so call Arsenal disgusting the way they do this to their own club, this certain person maybe try to deny it but the proof is there.

  • Ando

    A very interesting article, well presented and referenced. My eye was caught by the mention of Skinner and Piaget as these were names bandied about in the house I shared with sociology students in ’72.

    The word ‘guru’ is of Sanskrit origin and is a combination of gu and ru – darkness and light. Thus, a guru is one who takes others from ignorance of the light to knowledge of Same. And the capital S in same should be a clue.

    Modern marketing and media picked up on the word ‘guru’ when it was brought back from India by hippies in the ’60s. Interesting that pundit is also an Indian word.

  • Aneft E Budhai

    It is well written and scrupulously sourced articles like this that makes Untold such a great site.

  • Ste

    Comment removed

  • Kenneth Widmerpool

    Very interesting AKH. I just wondered if you consider the root problem is always a feeling of lack or not being/feeling good enough?From this lack comes a quick fire emotion in reaction or reactions and then the emotion is being articulated in some form or other.”I want and I will”.This lack will always tell the person that even the counter statistics or evident patterns are wrong-such is the power of the sense of lack in our lives?Apologetics are easily dumped in the fury of emotional rivers,despite any polemic or evidence thats brought up?
    How do we trust our emotions,just to satisfy a need that we have no right to even expect to be placated,especially when we have a basic comprehensibility of the logic’s of the game?
    All humans suffer in some way or another through this,and project outwardly their hurt,the wounded element that hides beneath the skin onto each other,blaming each other for the lack of happiness that we all believe is owed to us,after we have projected our own fears onto the world and perceive them as attacking us?
    Question is can we trust Logic? Plenty have used it for their lack and needs, plus where is the authority in a relative system that can verify the Logic as being purely Logical?What I mean is that Logic relies on more than structure, it has to take into account context and implications of premises and if those are self referential whats the context of validation?But Paradoxes and contradictions perhaps only create a fuzzy logic or dismantle it? But can we only understand Logic by being able to step outside of it? I havent a clue.Do we even have time for Logic?Is there a place for logic in football?And to what degree.Logic meets physics and its not always pretty.
    But if this only a relative truth then where does that leave us?Perception? Certainly this is underpinning the world?Then theres Reason, despite the many millions words that have been cooked up in apologetics here Untold, many view it as a place of no Logic and mis-placed Reason and often accuse UA of x or y when they too are thinking the the manner they accuse.So we are back to perception and a feeling of alienation?Which causes more suffering etc.
    But is it Logic or Reason that makes you believe that AFC will be champions next season or a will of thought that hopes? ie a projection, of lack( in that we werent this year or for a while,and thats the objective of the system)?
    The very dynamics(the difficulty in precise prediction of outcome) of football is what makes it interesting,horrible and satisfying. LCFC winning?CFC imploding?Newcastle winning 5-1?But should we let these outcomes dictate our reactions-emotions?
    Hope you write some more on the psychology of the game, its very interesting.

  • colario

    Time was the only place the fan, the supporter could express his/her opinion on football in public was at the game.

    Usually shouting out a knee jerk reaction to what had just happened, was happening or the shouting what the shouter thought will happen.

    The call – shout was based only on the knee jerk reaction and was soon forgotten by those who heard the opinion.

    To day the knee jerk reaction has the free for all of internet cyber space.

    The knee jerk fan has been joined by the media. The media feeds of sensationalism, trivia and bad news. For a long, long time the newspapers maxim ‘good news is no news and bad news is good news because it bumps up the newspaper sales. So it does here.

    Thinking through a situation has to be learnt.

    Very few people have been taught how to think and analyse for themselves. Thus we get opinions expressed as facts here.

    It is normal.

    I don’t have any evidence for this but it would not surprise me if untold was not the only blog site that receives opinions as facts without evidence for the claims.

    It is something we have to live with unless we want to be a closed shop in the way a certain referees organisation is.

    I for one do not want that

  • WalterBroeckx

    THIS is what makes Untold Untold!
    At a moment like this I feel proud to be a contributor of this website for so many years.
    Thanks AKH!

  • omgarsenal

    AKH…….good article! While Skinner were classical behaviourists,their cognitive approach has now been shown to be limited both in scope and breadth. That said, as a practicing psychologist, I propose the following as an explanation of unsupported opinions:

    1)Everyone can have an opinion but only those who can effectively defend their opinion can safely express them in public, without incurring severe flaming from more informed lights.Since those who cannot defend their opinion are oblivious to the consequences of publicly stating them, they are also oblivious of the need to rationally defend them.

    2)The oft misrepresented ¨democratic right¨ to open one’s mouth before putting one’s brain in gear is a myth. The concept of freedom of speech also comes with severe restrictions and obligations such as abstaining from libel, racism, sexism, xenophobia, etc., at the risk of legal pursuit and possible fines and imprisonment.

    3)Since at least 50% of the human population have average or lesser intelligence, it is not unsurprising that those on the borderline deem it correct to write,say or print whatever they want because they are unable to appreciate the consequences of their actions effectively.

    4)Finally, anonymity is the best friend of the witless and simpletons. The internet offers almost perfect camouflage for these snipers….they can say anything but remain hidden behind their avatars or alter-egos. If they said the same things in public, face-to-face with another person, the consequences would be nefarious to say the least. The internet offers cowards a perfect refuge.

  • Menace

    Thanks AKH. It takes understanding to truly appreciate thought theory.

    However your paragraph sums up a lot.
    ‘One often needs to use logical reasoning in order to make the evidence and argument appear meaningful.
    Without such formal thinking capability it will be very difficult for a person to make sense of the evidence or of the argument by using concrete thinking and reasoning alone and as such will refuse to accept it or believe it.’

    For many transition from concrete to formal may not occur till later life.

  • Brickfields Gunners

    Another awesome contribution on UA . Thanks AKH for this , truly an interesting read . Very enlightening .
    The younglings , as also the others ,should try to understand this article to better their enjoyment of following the Arsenal .

  • Brickfields Gunners

    ‘ Life is like a flute . It may have many holes and emptiness ….
    But if you work on it carefully , it can play magical melodies .’

    And I think that the VERY same applies to our brains too !So work hard and lets all make beautiful music here on UA !

  • I would certainly like to add my thanks for this article and say what a pleasure it is to publish it.

    I see that Walter in his next article has already taken up the issue and considered it in other directions. And it has caused me to review my whole perception of what makes the football media as it is.

    I hope to publish something further along these lines over the weekend.

    Sorry about the repeated interruptions from “Ste” all over the place. I thought I had dealt with the matter, but it seems not. Hopefully this time the interruptions will stop.

  • para

    In the end an opinion is just that:
    a view or judgement formed about something, not necessarily based on fact or knowledge.

    So, whether it is based on fact:a thing that is known or proved to be true
    or on knowledge:
    1:facts, information, and skills acquired through experience or education; the theoretical or practical understanding of a subject
    2:awareness or familiarity gained by experience of a fact or situation

    it inevitable ends up being just that, an opinion.

    So what have we learned?

    Opinions are personal or individual whether based on facts and knowledge or not.

    There is no winner.

  • Jambug

    Great article.

    Facts based argument is, to my way of thinking, the only valid way of sustaining a point of view or opinion.

    Even this has it’s inherent problems, such has interpretation of said ‘facts’ or ‘Statistics’.

    But I can live with that.

    It is certainly infinitely more acceptable than simply saying “I think this, therefore it is so” without a shred of evidence.

    And yes, it is articles such as this that put UA in a league of it’s own.