Sure, we all share things online but some people tend to share a lot more inspirational posts than others. On occasion, there are several people on my feed who back to back post one inspirational quote after another.

Well, according to a recent study there is a link between being impressed by inspirational quotes and low intelligence. The title of this study is “on the reception and detection of pseudo-profound bullshit” and it calls out a lot of people. Some kind of concept might be there but the quotes themselves lack real meaning. For this study researchers from the University of Waterloo presented about 300 participants with different autogenerated statements and asked them to react to them.

These people were supposed to rate the profoundness of these quotes/statements from one to five. Then they were also all to undergo testing to measure their intelligence levels and cognitive abilities. Those who saw through the ‘bullshit’ scored higher on their tests than those who found the statements to be profound.

In an interview with Vice Gordon Pennycock who worked on this study said as follows in regards to the autogenerated statement site used:

I came across the website, I just kind of thought about if there was any research on this; I wanted to know if people thought those statements were profound. I often see quotes that are maybe not quite as egregious, but you see a lot of motivational ones…there’s quotes and a picture of somebody who obviously did not say the quote — you come across that quite often.

These researchers also noted those who liked inspirational quotes more were also more likely to believe in conspiracy theories and paranormal things. This further explaining some of why people either really like quotes and other things of the sort and others despise them. We are all on different levels and relate to different things.

This study brings forth the general discussion as explained below:

The present study represents an initial investigation of the individual differences in receptivity to pseudo-profound bullshit. We gave people syntactically coherent sentences that consisted of random vague buzzwords and, across four studies, these statements were judged to be at least somewhat profound. This tendency was also evident when we presented participants with similar real-world examples of pseudo-profound bullshit. Most importantly, we have provided evidence that individuals vary in conceptually interpretable ways in their propensity to ascribe profundity to bullshit statements; a tendency we refer to as “bullshit receptivity”.

Those more receptive to bullshit are less reflective, lower in cognitive ability (i.e., verbal and fluid intelligence, numeracy), 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. Finally, we introduced a measure of pseudo-profound bullshit sensitivity by computing a difference score between profundity ratings for pseudo-profound bullshit and legitimately meaningful motivational quotations. This measure was related to analytic cognitive style and paranormal skepticism. However, there was no association between bullshit sensitivity and either conspiratorial ideation or acceptance of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM). Nonetheless, our findings are consistent with the idea that the tendency to rate vague, meaningless statements as profound (i.e., pseudo-profound bullshit receptivity) is a legitimate psychological phenomenon that is consistently related to at least some variables of theoretical interest.

What do you think about all of this? I for one think that regardless of these results I will still share inspirational quotes from time to time. That being said, as controversial as it may seem, some people who overshare do fit this bill.

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