Most people know someone who persistently posts profound-sounding but ultimately meaningless statements or quotes on their page and Twitter feed.
Now there is finally some vindication for those of us who fail to see the wisdom hidden within these collections of New-Age buzzwords.
A new study has found that people who are more receptive to these so-called inspirational statements tend to also have lower levels of intelligence.
They are also more prone to believing in the paranormal, hold religious beliefs and are taken in by conspiracy theories.
In a study titled ‘On the reception and detection of pseudo-profound bulls***t’, psychologists examined whether some people are more receptive to these statements than others.
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During four experiments involving 845 volunteers, the researchers asked the participants to evaluate a series of statements to indicate how profound they thought they were or if they agreed with them.
They used phrases such as ‘attention and intention are the mechanics of Manifestation’ and ‘imagination is inside exponential space time events’.
In many of the tests, quotes were posted on Twitter by author and New Age guru Deepak Chopra.
He is well known for quotes such as ‘nature is a self-regulating ecosystem of awareness’ and ‘in the midst of movement and гитара с нуля chaos, keep stillness inside of you’.
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PROFOUND OR NOT?
These are just some of the statements used in the study by the researchers:
Hidden meaning transforms unparalleled abstract beauty
Imagination is inside exponential space time events
A river cuts through a rock, not because of its power but its persistence
An anxious person is a prisoner to their anxiety
A wet person does not fear the rain
These were mixed with statements that deliberately blended together buzzwords into meaningless sentences and mundane statements that could also be considered profound such as ‘most people enjoy some sort of music’.
In a follow-up test, the researchers also asked the participants to perform a series of cognitive tests.
In one they asked them if they agreed with a series of statements about religion, the paranormal or conspiracy theories.
Writing in the journal, , Gordon Pennycook, a cognitive psychologist at the University of Waterloo, in Ontario, who led the research, said: ‘Although bulls**t 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.
‘We focus on pseudo-profound bulls**t, which consists of seemingly impressive assertions that are presented as true and meaningful but are actually vacuous.
‘Our results support the idea that some people are more receptive to this type of bulls**t and that detecting it is not merely a matter of indiscriminate skepticism but rather a discernment of deceptive vagueness in otherwise impressive sounding claims.
‘Those more receptive to bulls**t are less reflective, lower in cognitive ability – numeracy, verbal and fluid intelligence), are more prone to ontological confusions and conspiratorial ideation, are more likely to hold religious and paranormal beliefs, and are more likely to endorse complementary and alternative medicine.’
Perhaps unusually for an academic paper, it is littered with swearwords – specifically one swearword, bulls**t.
The word appears 200 times throughout the paper, but despite this the researchers assured MailOnline it is a serious study.
They particularly single out quotes published by Deepak Chopra, who has been criticised in the past for producing ‘woo-woo nonsense’.
His quotes have become so infamous that several websites have been set up to generate random quotes in his style by pulling words from his Twitter feed.
After the paper was published, British physicist Professor Brian Cox posted a link to it on Mr Chopra’s Twitter feed, sparking an angry response from the spiritual author, peppered with more of his trademark quotes.
Mr Chopra said: ‘Brian good for you. No resistance, no anticipation, no regrets – just this moment as it is is also my motto.’
He later added: ‘S**t of any kind is profound. It is stardust and recycles as life. Of all people you should know.’
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