The pseudo, the profound and the pseudo-profound

Posted in: Comment, New Publications

Whilst it's relatively easy to come across bullshit these days as there's so much of it around, do you find there's a worry in the back of the mind that there might sometimes be something to it?  If so, then a recent paper in Judgement and Decision Making, may be just what you've been waiting for: On the reception and detection of pseudo-profound bullshit.  The very title makes you wary, however in case it might be bullshit in disguise.

The authors claim that although bullshit is common in everyday life, even attracting attention from philosophers, its reception (critical or ingenuous) has not been subject to empirical investigation.  In the paper they focus on pseudo-profound bullshit, that is seemingly impressive assertions that are presented as true and meaningful but are actually vacuous.  They found that the propensity to judge bullshit statements as profound was associated with a variety of conceptually relevant variables. and conclude that a bias toward accepting statements as true may be an important component of pseudo-profound bullshit receptivity.

The point of all this, perhaps, is to renew the call to bolster the values and skills of skepticism at every turn.  Meanwhile, read on ...

Gordon Pennycook, James Allan Cheyne, Nathaniel Barr, Derek J. Koehler and Jonathan A. Fugelsang  (2015) On the reception and detection of pseudo-profound bullshit. Judgement and Decision Making. 10:6 549-563

Posted in: Comment, New Publications


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