Pseudo-Profound Bullshit

There is bullshit, and then there is pseudo-profound bullshit: obscure sentences constructed to impress others rather than convey truth. And it seems there is a non-trivial relationship between receptivity to this kind of bullshit and political ideology.

This research systematically mapped the relationship between political ideology and receptivity to pseudo-profound bullshit—that is, obscure sentences constructed to impress others rather than convey truth. Among Swedish adults (N = 985), bullshit receptivity was (a) robustly positively associated with socially conservative (vs. liberal) self-placement, resistance to change, and particularly binding moral intuitions (loyalty, authority, purity); (b) associated with centrism on preference for equality and even leftism (when controlling for other aspects of ideology) on economic ideology self-placement; and (c) lowest among right-of-center social liberal voters and highest among left-wing green voters. Most of the results held up when we controlled for the perceived profundity of genuine aphorisms, cognitive reflection, numeracy, information processing bias, gender, age, education, religiosity, and spirituality. The results are supportive of theoretical accounts that posit ideological asymmetries in cognitive orientation, while also pointing to the existence of bullshit receptivity among both right- and left-wingers.


Nilsson, Artur, et al. ‘The Complex Relation Between Receptivity to Pseudo-Profound Bullshit and Political Ideology’. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, Mar. 2019, p. 0146167219830415. SAGE Journals, doi:10.1177/0146167219830415.

Featured Image: Valladolid Rodin Expo

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