Document Type

Article

Publication Date

11-2015

Keywords

bullshit, bullshit detection, dual-process theories, analytic thinking, supernatural beliefs, religiosity, conspiratorial ideation, complementary and alternative medicine.

Abstract

Although bullshit is common in everyday life and has attracted attention from philosophers, its reception (critical or ingenuous) has not, to our knowledge, been subject to empirical investigation. Here we focus on pseudo-profound bullshit, which consists of seemingly impressive assertions that are presented as true and meaningful but are actually vacuous. We presented participants with bullshit statements consisting of buzzwords randomly organized into statements with syntactic structure but no discernible meaning (e.g., “Wholeness quiets infinite phenomena”). Across multiple studies, the propensity to judge bullshit statements as profound was associated with a variety of conceptually relevant variables (e.g., intuitive cognitive style, supernatural belief). Parallel associations were less evident among profundity judgments for more conventionally profound (e.g., “A wet person does not fear the rain”) or mundane (e.g., “Newborn babies require constant attention”) statements. These results support the idea that some people are more receptive to this type of bullshit and that detecting it is not merely a matter of indiscriminate skepticism but rather a discernment of deceptive vagueness in otherwise impressive sounding claims. Our results also suggest that a bias toward accepting statements as true may be an important component of pseudo-profound bullshit receptivity.

Faculty

Faculty of Humanities & Social Sciences

School

School of Humanities and Creativity

Journal

Judgment and Decision Making

Version

Publisher's version

Peer Reviewed/Refereed Publication

yes

Funder

Funding for this study was provided by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada.

Terms of Use

Terms of Use for Works posted in SOURCE.

Awards

The Ig Nobel Board of Governers awards the 2016 Ig Nobel Prize in the field of Peace to Nathaniel Barr and his team of scholars for their work on the research study “On the Reception and Detection of Pseudo-Profound Bullshit.”

Original Publication Citation

Pennycook, G., Cheyne J. A., Barr, N., Koehler, D. J., & Fugelsang, J. A. (2015) On the reception and detection of pseudo-profound bullshit. Judgment and Decision Making, 10(6), 549-563. http://journal.sjdm.org/15/15923a/jdm15923a.pdf

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