On the reception and detection of pseudo-profound bullshit

This 2015 paper ought to provoke provoke an interesting discussion:

On the reception and detection of pseudo-profound bullshit

Abstract

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.

472 thoughts on “On the reception and detection of pseudo-profound bullshit”

  1. Erik

    keiths: But of course revelation is piecemeal. When fifth revealed to Isabel that his Grandma wants a Metallica album for Christmas, that’s all he revealed. He did not reveal that Grandma babysat James Hetfield when he was a boy, and so Isabel does not know that.

    Likewise, when God revealed that linen and wool should not be mixed together, he was not revealing that there was a roughly earth-sized planet orbiting Proxima Centauri.

    Obviously.

    Your juxtapositions of one truth with another are juxtapositions of facts of the same category. Your objection to fifth’s statement works if:

    1. Facts can be uncontroversially called truths.
    2. All truths are of the same category.

    I.e. it works on a flat view of truth where there are no nuances, just one single category. But your objection doesn’t work if facts are not the same things as truths and/or if all truths are not of the same category. Obviously.

    keiths: Nowhere have you shown that fifth’s statement is correct or even “not obviously wrong”.

    I’m not saying whether fifth’s statement is right or not. Just that your attack on it is wrong. Just like your attack on Plantinga was wrong, regardless if Plantinga is right.

  2. newton

    colewd:
    I think he is defining what we have observed. If that is true then we can define life as a self replicating, self sustaining organism. The origin may be outside our current universe. So what we observe about life on earth and its ultimate origin may be separate issues.

    Life is only one of many origin mysteries.

    Reasonable but of course it defeats the problem of infinite regress if life could arise from something other than life

  3. keithskeiths Post author

    Erik,

    Your juxtapositions of one truth with another are juxtapositions of facts of the same category. Your objection to fifth’s statement works if:

    1. Facts can be uncontroversially called truths.
    2. All truths are of the same category.

    No, my objection requires nothing more than the following:

    1. “Grandma wants a Metallica album” is a piece of true information.

    2. “Grandma wants a Metallica album” does not convey “Grandma babysat James Hetfield”, the atomic number of strontium, or Napoleon’s inseam.

    Fifth’s statement is wrong:

    Every piece of true information when properly understood contains within it all truth.

    He is also wrong when he says that there’s nothing piecemeal about revelation.

    You got suckered, Erik.

  4. keithskeiths Post author

    Erik,

    I’m not saying whether fifth’s statement is right or not.

    It follows directly from what you’ve written that fifth’s statement is either correct, or at the very least “not obviously wrong”, given the theory of two truths. I would like to see you back that up. You’ve failed to do so.

  5. PatrickPatrick

    fifthmonarchyman:
    really? Do you still not understand what a presupposition is?

    Hint It’s not a claim and you don’t support it.

    and I only presuppose one thing by the way.

    I presuppose The Christian God who is— ONE— and is– TRUTH

    I know what a presupposition is and I know what intellectual dishonesty looks like. Your renaming your claims about reality in a transparent attempt to avoid supporting them is the latter.

  6. PatrickPatrick

    fifthmonarchyman: That’s only because you are starting from a helpless and hopeless position and you assume that anyone who is not handicapped in the same way must be cheating

    “Helpless and hopeless” seems to describe the result of your childhood indoctrination quite well. You’re a perfect example of the harm religion can cause to a young, malleable brain. Sadly, you’re unlikely to recover.

  7. PatrickPatrick

    J-Mac:
    I just would like to inform you that due to blog-non-sense-epidemic and my family/relaxation time, I will not respond to any comments that are shit!I hate to use this word but it is second best to what I want to use. So, if you didn’t get your response from me, it means you don’t know what you are talking about, or you are a blind materialist, which is the same thing…

    Please read the site rules, paying particular attention to the one about assuming that others are posting in good faith.

  8. waltowalto

    Patrick: “Helpless and hopeless” seems to describe the result of your childhood indoctrination quite well. You’re a perfect example of the harm religion can cause to a young, malleable brain. Sadly, you’re unlikely to recover.

    HaHa. Excellent!

    Patrick: Please read the site rules, paying particular attention to the one about assuming that others are posting in good faith.

  9. Pedant

    fifthmonarchyman:

    and I only presuppose one thing by the way.

    I presuppose The Christian God who is— ONE— and is– TRUTH

    peace

    Actually, you presuppose three things:

    1. There is a being called The Christian God
    2. That being is ONE
    3. That being is TRUTH

    Apparently that being didn’t reveal arithmetic.

  10. newton

    fifthmonarchyman: newton: Only if you do not believe his version of God exists.

    But you are correct on one thing , he could just be bullshitting.

    you are back to being my favorite 😉

    I’ll drink to that.

  11. newton

    J-Mac:
    I just would like to inform you that due to blog-non-sense-epidemic and my family/relaxation time, I will not respond to any comments that are shit!I hate to use this word but it is second best to what I want to use.

    Hints about the first best?

  12. newton

    walto: Patrick: “Helpless and hopeless” seems to describe the result of your childhood indoctrination quite well. You’re a perfect example of the harm religion can cause to a young, malleable brain. Sadly, you’re unlikely to recover.

    HaHa. Excellent!

    “A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds, adored by little statesmen and philosophers and divines. With consistency a great soul has simply nothing to do. He may as well concern himself with his shadow on the wall. Speak what you think now in hard words, and to-morrow speak what to-morrow thinks in hard words again, though it contradict every thing you said to-day. — ‘Ah, so you shall be sure to be misunderstood.’ — Is it so bad, then, to be misunderstood? Pythagoras was misunderstood, and Socrates, and Jesus, and Luther, and Copernicus, and Galileo, and Newton, and every pure and wise spirit that ever took flesh. To be great is to be misunderstood.”
    RW Emerson

  13. colewd

    newton,

    Reasonable but of course it defeats the problem of infinite regress if life could arise from something other than life

    If Life arrises from atoms and molecules where did the atoms come from? Infinite regress restored 🙂

  14. GlenDavidson

    newton: “A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds, adored by little statesmen and philosophers and divines. With consistency a great soul has simply nothing to do. He may as well concern himself with his shadow on the wall. Speak what you think now in hard words, and to-morrow speak what to-morrow thinks in hard words again, though it contradict every thing you said to-day. — ‘Ah, so you shall be sure to be misunderstood.’ — Is it so bad, then, to be misunderstood? Pythagoras was misunderstood, and Socrates, and Jesus, and Luther, and Copernicus, and Galileo, and Newton, and every pure and wise spirit that ever took flesh. To be great is to be misunderstood.”
    RW Emerson

    That’s a great quote, for bullshit.

    Glen Davidson

  15. waltowalto

    newton: Is it so bad, then, to be misunderstood? Pythagoras was misunderstood, and Socrates, and Jesus, and Luther, and Copernicus, and Galileo, and Newton, and every pure and wise spirit that ever took flesh.

    Including, of course, J-Mac and Patrick.

  16. Erik

    keiths: No, my objection requires nothing more than the following:

    1. “Grandma wants a Metallica album” is a piece of true information.

    2. “Grandma wants a Metallica album” does not convey “Grandma babysat James Hetfield”, the atomic number of strontium, or Napoleon’s inseam.

    That’s two facts in a row. If facts are not the same as truths, you are not saying anything relevant to fifth’s statement. Just like on your attack against Plantinga’s free will defence you weren’t being relevant, because your construal of free will wasn’t free will.

    keiths: It follows directly from what you’ve written that fifth’s statement is either correct, or at the very least “not obviously wrong”, given the theory of two truths.

    Given any other theory of truth than yours. To be properly relevant, you should ask fifth about his theory of truth, but you are evidently happy to remain irrelevant. So be it.

  17. GlenDavidson

    walto: newton: Is it so bad, then, to be misunderstood? Pythagoras was misunderstood, and Socrates, and Jesus, and Luther, and Copernicus, and Galileo, and Newton, and every pure and wise spirit that ever took flesh.

    Including, of course, J-Mac and Patrick.

    And Deepak Chopra!

    Glen Davidson

  18. colewd

    Kantian Naturalist,

    Per Wiki: History of the scientific method:

    Aristotle pioneered scientific method in ancient Greece alongside his empirical biology and his work on logic, rejecting a purely deductive framework in favour of generalisations made from observations of nature.

    An important part of science is using data collected from observation and using inductive reasoning to understand cause. As far as I can tell Aristotle was the pioneer of this which Wiki confirms.
    I think the main contribution to science was the idea of efficient cause which is one of the 4 causes Aristotle identified. The others are material cause, formal cause and final cause.

    Aquinas based some of his 5 ways argument on Aristotle’s reasoning of the 4 causes in nature. Whats fascinating here is that the origin of the scientific method and the arguments for the existence of God come from the same line of reasoning.

  19. stcordova

    pseudo-profound bullshit

    KairosFocus comes to mind, right up until he starts talking fishing reels.

  20. newton

    colewd:
    newton,

    If Life arrises from atoms and molecules where did the atoms come from?Infinite regress restored 🙂

    If you concede life can come from non life, then regress restored

  21. PatrickPatrick

    Pedant: Actually, you presuppose three things:

    1. There is a being called The Christian God
    2. That being is ONE
    3. That being is TRUTH

    Apparently that being didn’t reveal arithmetic.

    Nor grammar. FFM has yet to explain how his god can be truth.

  22. PatrickPatrick

    Kantian Naturalist:
    newton,

    Are you seriously defending Patrick’s hypocrisy with an Emerson quote?

    Where’s the hypocrisy? I think FFM is posting in good faith, in that he means what he says. I also think he’s so profoundly damaged by religion that he doesn’t realize how intellectually dishonest he is.

  23. newton

    GlenDavidson:
    The depth of my thought is as the sands of the sea–intense and forceful.

    Glen Davidson

    Maybe in order to understand mankind, we have to look at the word itself: “Mankind.” Basically, it’s made up of two separate words, mank and ind. What do these words mean? It’s a mystery, and that’s why so is mankind.

    Jack Handley

  24. Kantian NaturalistKantian Naturalist

    Patrick: Where’s the hypocrisy?I think FFM is posting in good faith, in that he means what he says.I also think he’s so profoundly damaged by religion that he doesn’t realize how intellectually dishonest he is.

    And here I thought that accusing others of intellectual dishonesty was against the rules of the site. I won’t make that mistake again.

  25. PatrickPatrick

    Kantian Naturalist: And here I thought that accusing others of intellectual dishonesty was against the rules of the site. I won’t make that mistake again.

    I am addressing the behavior he demonstrates here through his comments. Simply calling a claim a presupposition doesn’t magically make it not require support. I don’t think he understands that, though. He is posting in good faith, secure in his indoctrination.

    My apologies if I didn’t make that distinction clear.

  26. keithskeiths Post author

    keiths:

    No, my objection requires nothing more than the following:

    1. “Grandma wants a Metallica album” is a piece of true information.

    2. “Grandma wants a Metallica album” does not convey “Grandma babysat James Hetfield”, the atomic number of strontium, or Napoleon’s inseam.

    Fifth’s statement is wrong:

    Every piece of true information when properly understood contains within it all truth.

    He is also wrong when he says that there’s nothing piecemeal about revelation.

    You got suckered, Erik.

    Erik:

    That’s two facts in a row. If facts are not the same as truths, you are not saying anything relevant to fifth’s statement.

    Focus, Erik. The issue is whether “Grandma wants a Metallica album” is “a piece of true information”, not whether my statements #1 and #2 above should be classified as “facts” vs “truths”.

    Since we’ve stipulated that Grandma does in fact want a Metallica album, “Grandma wants a Metallica album” is a piece of true information. “Grandma wants a Metallica album” does not convey Napoleon’s true inseam.

    Therefore, fifth’s statement is wrong:

    Every piece of true information when properly understood contains within it all truth.

    Would you like to argue that “Grandma wants a Metallica album” is not a piece of true information, despite the fact that Grandma does in fact want a Metallica album?

    You seem fond of hopeless causes, so be my guest.

  27. keithskeiths Post author

    Just like on your attack against Plantinga’s free will defence you weren’t being relevant, because your construal of free will wasn’t free will.

    Pay attention, Erik. I wrote:

    Let’s assume for the purposes of this OP that libertarian free will exists and that humans possess it. (It’s actually incoherent and therefore impossible, but that’s a separate topic.)

    Plantinga’s defense failed even when I adopted his notion of libertarian free will.

  28. fifthmonarchyman

    Patrick: You’ve made this and similar claims repeatedly. You have never supported any of them with a rational argument or evidence.

    once again

    My hypothesis that the only two alternatives are Christianity and absurdity is tentative.

    All that it would take to falsify it is for you to offer a solid grounding for knowledge in your worldview. Since you are unable or unwilling to do that my hypothesis remains unfalsified.

    The evidence is your inability of offer a response to the “how do you know?” question that is not subject to further regress.

    peace

  29. fifthmonarchyman

    Patrick: Simply calling a claim a presupposition doesn’t magically make it not require support.

    Simply calling a presupposition a claim does not magically mean that it requires support.

    😉

    peace

  30. keithskeiths Post author

    Erik:

    I’m not saying whether fifth’s statement is right or not.

    keiths:

    It follows directly from what you’ve written that fifth’s statement is either correct, or at the very least “not obviously wrong”, given the theory of two truths.

    Erik:

    Given any other theory of truth than yours.

    Hence my request: Demonstrate that fifth’s statement is either correct, or at the very least “not obviously wrong”, given the theory of two truths.

    If you can’t, then just admit that. No one will be surprised.

    Ditto for your boast that you can “demonstrate wrong” the correspondence theory of truth. Good luck with that.

    You once wrote that

    Well, I have made it my personal quest to answer all the philosophical questions. Why? I have hardly any other interests.

    Have you considered another hobby? Something you’re better at, like quilting?

  31. keithskeiths Post author

    fifth’s subconscious has something it would like to say:

    Since you are unable or unwilling to do that my hypothesis remains falsified.

    [Emphasis added]

  32. fifthmonarchyman

    Erik: To be properly relevant, you should ask fifth about his theory of truth, but you are evidently happy to remain irrelevant. So be it.

    There is no need to ask

    I’ve repeatedly shared my theory of truth. Truth is simply what God believes.

    Ive also repeatedly shown how that theory works it’s self out practically in triperspectivalism. With multiple links in case folks wanted more information.

    The only excuse that keiths has for remaining like he is as far as I can tell is that he is happy in his irrelevance.

    peace

  33. Erik

    keiths: Hence my request: Demonstrate that fifth’s statement is either correct, or at the very least “not obviously wrong”, given the theory of two truths.

    Done. It would be done even to your satisfaction, if you cared about relevance. I have asked you to address my relevant statements regarding the topic (your topic, by the way) to no avail, so you can keep whining too to no avail.

    keiths: Plantinga’s defense failed even when I adopted his notion of libertarian free will.

    You didn’t. And when you recently assumed you were saying something against objective morality, you weren’t. And your own allegedly subjective morality was not subjective in any meaningful way. You are not good with those things. And you refuse to learn. You don’t listen to smarter people and not to the majority either. Nothing can help you.

  34. fifthmonarchyman

    keiths: fifth’s subconscious has something it would like to say:

    Since you are unable or unwilling to do that my hypothesis remains falsified.

    [Emphasis added]

    Captain anal retentive to the rescue again

    peace

  35. keithskeiths Post author

    fifth:

    Captain anal retentive to the rescue again

    Yes. Only an anal-retentive person would bother to distinguish between X and not-X. Logic is unnecessary when you have Jesus.

  36. keithskeiths Post author

    Erik,

    You’ve been reduced to fuming and sputtering. Why not take a break and actually think things through? And maybe do some quilting?

  37. fifthmonarchyman

    keiths: Only an anal-retentive person would bother to distinguish between X and not-X. Logic is unnecessary when you have Jesus.

    Most folks know there is a huge difference between not distinguishing and not fussing about spelling.

    But the careless absence of a prefix is something Captain anal retentive can’t let go.

    peace

  38. waltowalto

    Erik: [W]hen you recently assumed you were saying something against objective morality, you weren’t. And your own allegedly subjective morality was not subjective in any meaningful way. You are not good with those things. And you refuse to learn. You don’t listen to smarter people and not to the majority either. Nothing can help you.

    As I said, he’s a corker. He seems to take the view that he’s got the last word on all this stuff that has stymied geniuses forever, like what constitutes morality, objectivity, truth. OTOH, he has freely admitted that he doesn’t even know his own name. Gotta love that in a person.

    Plus he won’t participate in any thread without ridiculing somebody (maybe everybody!). And he’d like the rules to be changed so that the few constraints there are here on obnoxiousness are completely eliminated. Insulting others and quoting himself seem to be the main pleasures he takes from the place. Well, as they say…different strokes. After all, this IS The Shit-throwing Zone!

  39. keithskeiths Post author

    fifth,

    I’ve repeatedly shared my theory of truth. Truth is simply what God believes.

    And since Grandma does in fact want a Metallica album, God believes it, and by your own definition it is a “piece of true information”. Yet “Grandma wants a Metallica album” does not convey Napoleon’s true inseam.

    Therefore your statement is wrong, even when we adopt your “theory” of truth:

    Every piece of true information when properly understood contains within it all truth.

    You and Erik are boring everyone to death with your incompetence.

    Entertain us. Say something pseudo-profound, fifth!

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