Maslow’s Hammer (n)

A phrase coined by Abraham Maslow in his 1966 book The Psychology of Science where he described the phenomenon:

I suppose it is tempting, if the only tool you have is a hammer, to treat everything as if it were a nail.

or, more popularly

“if all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail”

This useful phrase (read as: tool) has many applications.  But for the purposes of graduate school, it relates to the remarkable ability of blinkered graduate students to inflict themselves on any given conversation, in order to demonstrate how the topic at hand indeed relates to his/her own dissertation.  Even if it doesn’t.  And it usually doesn’t.

Related: the propensity of early-stage graduate students to inflict a particular lens (i.e., whatever new theory, or old one they happen to be most familiar with) on any, and every situation, effectively smashing any productive conversation.

Thankfully, this is usually just a phase.

Related: Alexander Pope’s Essay on Criticism:

A little learning is a dangerous thing; drink deep, or taste not the Pierian spring: there shallow draughts intoxicate the brain, and drinking largely sobers us again.

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