Testing receptivity to pseudo-profound bullshit [new study]

The 2016 Ig Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to Gordon Pennycook, James Allan Cheyne, Nathaniel Barr, Derek Koehler, and Jonathan Fugelsang for their scholarly study called “On the Reception and Detection of Pseudo-Profound Bullshit”. Reference: “On the Reception and Detection of Pseudo-Profound Bullshit” in Judgment and Decision Making, Vol. 10, No. 6, November 2015, pp. 549–563.

Since the publication of the paper, research in the Pseudo-Profound Bullshit (PPBS) field has continued, some might say flourished. And now, as of 2019, a set of tests have been developed by a research team from the University of Waterloo, Canada, which might help distinguish between those individuals who tend to be ‘receptive’ to PPBS and those tend not to be. Bearing in mind that :

“Like other irrational beliefs, bullshit is a real, prevalent, and consequential phenomenon. Due to this prevalence and potential for harm, the ability to recognize and avoid bullshit is an essential skill to have in today’s world.”

Try looking at the ‘snowy image’ above. Can you discern anything? Now consider these statements :

“Imagination is inside exponential space time events”

“We are in the midst of a high-frequency blossoming of interconnectedness that will give us access to the quantum soup itself ”

If you saw anything in the image (it’s just random-ish noise) then you might have also been receptive to the two statements (which are examples of PPBS).

“In conclusion, the tendency to go beyond the available data and infuse the world with illusory patterns is positively associated with the tendency to create and endorse meaning in superficially impressive, yet ultimately meaningless, pseudo-profound statements.”

See: Finding meaning in the clouds: Illusory pattern perception predicts receptivity to pseudo-profound bullshit in Judgment and Decision Making, Vol. 14, No. 2, March 2019, pp. 109-119. Supplementary material here.

BONUS for PPBS researchers : There are (at least) two online facilities which can generate PPBS for your experiments. See : wisdomofchopra.com and sebpearce.com

Research research by Martin Gardiner