Departing the Vacuousness

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A Paper on Bullshit

Started by Recusant, December 03, 2015, 05:04:32 AM

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There's some interesting stuff in the paper about susceptibility to bullshit in various forms. It focusses on receptivity to Deepak Chopra's pseudo-profound doubletalk as well as conspiracy theories and "alternative medicine."

"On the reception and detection of pseudo-profound bullshit" | Judgment and Decision Making (PDF)


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.

There's a write-up about the paper in Forbes magazine, as well.
"Religion is fundamentally opposed to everything I hold in veneration — courage, clear thinking, honesty, fairness, and above all, love of the truth."
— H. L. Mencken


Retired member.

Ecurb Noselrub

The preternatural essence of this article transcends subjective realization.


I am what survives if it's slain - Zack Hemsey


I am what survives if it's slain - Zack Hemsey


I just learned the meaning of pseudo-profound bullshit.
I also used it in my signature:  :smilenod:
"By the Grayce of Asmodean Prime, father of all Asmos, we are reborn!" ~The Gray God
~That's no pseudo-profound bullshit.  :nu-uh:
Asmo, you're my your back...
...hallowed be thy realm, no matter what they say.[/spoiler]

"I've had several "spiritual" or numinous experiences over the years, but never felt that they were the product of anything but the workings of my own mind in reaction to the universe." ~Recusant


Quotepseudo-profound bullshit

That's when the slurry pit is only six inches deep, but you can't know that because you can't see the bottom.