If you’re about to share your third inspirational quote for the day on Facebook, stop and read this first.
A new scientific study has found that people who respond positively to ‘pseudo-profound bulls***’ are less intelligent, less reflective, and more likely to believe in conspiracy theories, paranormal phenomena and alternative medicine.
Let’s be honest — this report just described, like, a solid third of everybody’s Facebook friends, right?
PhD candidate Gordon Pennycook and a team of researchers from the University of Waterloo in Ontario, Canada, tested hundreds of participants for their study, entitled On the reception and detection of pseudo-profound bulls***.
The word ‘bulls***’ appears in the report 200 times, and is defined by the report as “something that implies but does not contain adequate meaning or truth”.
As an example, the researchers offered this ‘pseudo-profound’ statement: “Hidden meaning transforms unparalleled abstract beauty.”
“Although this statement may seem to convey some sort of potentially profound meaning,” the paper explains, “it is merely a collection of buzzwords put together randomly in a sentence that retains syntactic structure.”
To test the participants’ acceptance of pseudo-profound bulls***, Pennycook and his team created a website that randomly generates pseudo-profound phrases like “We vibrate, we believe, we are reborn”, “The vector of power is now happening worldwide”, and “To engage with the story is to become one with it”.
The site is still active, if you feel like trolling your Facebook friends.
The test subjects rated the ‘profundity’ of these randomly generated statements on a scale of one to five; the mean profoundness rating at the end of the study was 2.6; indicating the quotes were generally considered ‘somewhat profound’ and ‘fairly profound’.
Around 27 per cent of the test subjects, however, were particularly taken with the randomly generated slices of ‘wisdom’, giving them an average score of three or more, indicating they thought they were ‘profound’ or ‘very profound’.
In the second round of testing, real-life quotes from the likes of ‘New Age’ thinker Deepak Chopra were scattered amongst the computer-generated quotes, and received very similar scores. In other words, the participants were unable to separate the ‘real’ from the bulls***.
The researchers also looked into the personality traits of the participants, and found that those who were more receptive to the randomly generated bulls*** tended to be “less reflective, lower in cognitive ability (i.e. verbal and fluid intelligence, numeracy), and are more prone to ontological confusions and conspiratorial ideation”.
The report said the same people were more likely to “hold religious and paranormal beliefs, and are more likely to endorse complementary and alternative medicine”.
The study is good for a laugh, but the researchers believe it has serious value, as well. Bulls*** is commonplace, they say — “using vagueness or ambiguity to mask a lack of meaningfulness is surely common in political rhetoric, marketing, and even academia”.
In other words, there’s a lot of bulls*** out there — and being able to spot it is a real skill that some people just don’t have.
Did you try the pseudo-profound quote generator? Share your favourite ‘inspirational’ quotes in the comments below!
[Via The Independent]