Among the 2016 Ig Nobel Prizes awarded today is one to a group of researchers for a study on the detection of Bullshit.
The Ig Nobel, a humorous parody of the Nobel Prizes, is almost as famous as its more serious Swedish counterpart.
The Peace Prize was awarded to the authors of a study, On the reception and detection of pseudo-profound bullshit, published in the journal Judgment and Decision Making.
The psychologists set out to focus on pseudo-profound bullshit, which consists of at impressive statements that are presented as true and meaningful but are actually vacuous.
The researchers argue that bullshit is an aspect of the human condition and that with the rise of communication technology and methods, such as Twitter and Facebook, people are likely encountering more bullshit than ever before.
They say that using vagueness or ambiguity to mask a lack of meaningfulness is common in political rhetoric, marketing and even academia.
“The construction of a reliable index of bullshit receptivity is an important first step toward gaining a better understanding of the underlying cognitive and social mechanisms that determine if and when bullshit is detected,” they write.
“Our bullshit receptivity scale was associated with a relatively wide range of important psychological factors.
“This is a valuable first step toward gaining a better understanding of the psychology of bullshit.
“The development of interventions and strategies that help individuals guard against bullshit is an important additional goal that requires considerable attention from cognitive and social psychologists.”
Some people may have an uncritically open mind and be more open to bullshit.
The researchers say the results support the idea that some people are more receptive to bullshit and that detecting it is not merely a matter of indiscriminate skepticism but rather a picking up the deceptive vagueness in otherwise impressive sounding claims.
The researchers quoted an old saying: “It pays to keep an open mind, but not so open your brains fall out.”
“One benefit of gaining a better understanding of how we reject other’s bullshit is that it may teach us to be more cognizant of our own bullshit,” the researchers write.
The prize-winning scientists are based in Canada — Gordon Pennycook, James Allan Cheyne, Nathaniel Bar, Derek J. Koehler and Jonathan A. Fugelsan.
The Ig Nobel Prizes honour achievements which make people laugh, and then think, by celebrating the unusual, honouring the imaginative, and spurring people’s interest in science, medicine, and technology.
The prizes are organised by the magazine Annals of Improbable Research, with an editorial board of 50 of eminent world scientists including several Nobel Prize winners.
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