I am a physicist and the other day, a friend of mine pointed out something that I had never noted explicitly before. This is an empirical observation, but it seems true to me, and it may raise a lot of questions about the current organization of research. I wonder whether this has already been documented and studied, either from the sociological or psychological points of view.
The observation is that fundamental discussions on physics (i.e. implying non-standard physics and epistemology) often occur in discussions involving at most 2 or 3 good friends (all being physicists). The more people you involve (5 or 6 good friends), the harder it is to speak about these subjects. It is not "explicit"; it is just a personal feeling that a kind of "social pressure" appears and tends to bring the discussion closer to "standard discussion subjects". And it seems to occur even if all possible subgroups of 2 or 3 people among the global group of 5 or 6 people are OK with having fundamental discussions on physics when they are isolated from each other.
My questions are:
- Is this a well-known effect? (Any links to studies?)
- What is its origin?
- How to avoid it?