An article in the Daily Beast claims the following:

A new study finds that people who love bullshit inspirational quotes have lower intelligence and more "conspiratorial ideations".

Life begins at the end of your comfort zone. Stars can't shine without darkness. A goal without a plan is just a wish.

Feeling inspired? Well, perhaps you shouldn't be, because those who post motivational quotes on social media have been found to display lower levels of intelligence than those who are more discerning over such 'profound' messages.

The article argues that many so-called inspirational quotes are nonsense dressed up as profundity or, in their words (referencing Frankfurt's On Bullshit):

Bullshit, in contrast to mere nonsense, is something that implies but does not contain adequate meaning or truth

These short, supposedly inspirational statements are very common on social media and are found in many office posters in association with beautiful images. These are probably intended to motivate employees.

So are the people who like these social media memes and motivational posters less smart that people who do not?


1 Answer 1


See the original article: On the reception and detection of pseudo-profound bullshit, Judgment and Decision Making, Vol. 10, No. 6, November 2015, pp. 549–563

Those more receptive to bullshit are less reflective, lower in cognitive ability (i.e., verbal and fluid intel- ligence, numeracy)

That statement is consistent with the quantitative analysis provided in the paper.

Regarding conspirational ideations:

there was no association between bullshit sensitivity and either conspiratorial ideation or acceptance of comple- mentary and alternative medicine (CAM)

This is also consistent with the quantitative analysis reported in the paper.

The paper did not assess or address whether any of the observed effects are associated with those that share motivational posters or memes on social media. As far as I can tell, such a study hasn't been conducted. It wasnt referenced by these authors and my own searching didn't turn anything up.

The authors point out that this is simply preliminary work that is necessary in order for more meaningful experiments to be done. They say that the only thing they tested was "the tendency to accept bullshit statements" and that how that transfers to broader actions or if it remains when the statements are in different contexts is left for future work.


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