Science of pseudoprofound Bullshit-Receptivity

Neue Bullshit-Studie von der Uni Waterloo: On the reception and detection of pseudo-profound bullshit (PDF, via Improbable Research). Sollten sich da Sozialwissenschaftler grade ein neues Sub-Genre erarbeiten, überlege ich mir das mit dem verspäteten Studium vielleicht doch nochmal, so'n Abschluss in Bullshit-Sciences wäre schon schick im CV.

Jedenfalls: Die haben inhaltsleere Buzzword-Reihen per Online-Bullshit-Generatoren erzeugt (Wisdom of Chopra und New Age Bullshit-Generator) und gemessen, ob und wie oft und von wem die als „tiefsinnig“ bewertet wurden. Keine großen Überraschungen im Ergebnis:


The present study represents an initial investigation of the individual differences in receptivity to pseudo-profound bullshit. We gave people syntactically coherent sentences that consisted of random vague buzzwords and, across four studies, these statements were judged to be at least somewhat profound.

This tendency was also evident when we presented participants with similar real-world examples of pseudo-profound bullshit. Most importantly, we have provided evidence that individuals vary in conceptually interpretable ways in their propensity to ascribe profundity to bullshit statements; a tendency we refer to as “bullshit receptivity”.

Those more receptive to bullshit are less reflective, lower in cognitive ability (i.e., verbal and fluid intelligence, numeracy), are more prone to ontological confusions and conspiratorial ideation, are more likely to hold religious and paranormal beliefs, and are more likely to endorse complementary and alternative medicine.

Finally, we introduced a measure of pseudo-profound bullshit sensitivity by computing a difference score between profundity ratings for pseudo-profound bullshit and legitimately meaningful motivational quotations. This measure was related to analytic cognitive style and paranormal skepticism. However, there was no association between bullshit sensitivity and either conspiratorial ideation or acceptance of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM).

Nonetheless, our findings are consistent with the idea that the tendency to rate vague, meaningless statements as profound (i.e., pseudoprofound bullshit receptivity) is a legitimate psychological phenomenon that is consistently related to at least some variables
of theoretical interest.