“On the Reception and Detection of Pseudo-Profound Bullshit”


That’s the title of this new study in the journal Judgement and Decision Making. Abstract:

Although bullshit is common in everyday life and has attracted attention from philosophers, its reception (critical or ingen- uous) 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 bull- shit 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.

Let me here invoke British everybloke Karl Pilkington:

For the Artsy Left, Scars > Obesity

From a Facebook post by super chic NOWNESS, we get a glimpse of high art fans’ feelings about a photo collection all about scars:

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32 people like it. OK, no biggie. But see now the same crowd’s reaction to obesity-themed photography:

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Not feelin’ it.

If there’s anything the art school crowd can’t abide, it’s fatness. Talk about bourgeois decadence at its worst, amiright? (Other kinds of decadence are just fine, though.)

High/Low Status Leftism: A Taxonomical Sketch

LOW: Fukushima, ecological catastrophe, astrology, 9/11-as-conspiracy, amorphous ideological boundaries, alternative weeklies, legalize drugs, anti-GMO, Edward Snwoden rocks!, “I don’t subscribe to labels,” Damn those Republicrats!, Django Unchained, Uber is whatever, FEMEN is truly outrageous, atheism is cool, Mountain West, expanding consciousness, nurses union, pit bulls, Noam Chomsky, Free Tibet, Yes to Burning Man, punk aesthetics

HIGH: Hurricane Katrina, climate change, therapy, 9/11-as-product-of-imperialism, rigid ideological boundaries, Mother Jones, legalize some drugs, anti-anti-vaxxer, Edward Snowden is meh, “Hell yes I’m a feminist,” Damn those Republicans, 12 Years a Slave, Uber sucks, FEMEN is embarrassing, atheism is problematic, Urban Northeast, expanding social consciousness, teachers union, cats, Slavoj Zizek, Free Palestine, No to Burning Man, hipster aesthetics

Update: As if on cue, high status leftist outlet Salon publishes an exclusive Q&A with Slavoj Zizek. Read it.

Interesting quote: “If Europe totally opens its borders, you would have in half a year a populist anti-immigrant revolution.”

Update II: In a Facebook convo with a friend, it was brought to my attention that Cosby Show child star Raven-Symoné – now all growed up – has expressed a low status opinion re: the recent South Carolina brouhaha involving a white cop and a black school girl. Sure enough, on Wikipedia I see this about the longtime actress/songstress:

Raven-Symoné explained that she rejects labels in all aspects of her life. Despite her racial origin and her same-sex relationship, she refuses to self-identify as either African-American or gay, but as an “American” and as a “human who loves humans.”

It seems Raven-Symoné subscribes to a passé 90s-style individualism, and comes off like a humanist, not an identity politics sectarian.