Are we more receptive to bullshit when it comes from a source we trust?
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The current work sought to explore the relationship between trust and pseudo-profound bullshit receptivity. There is currently a gap in the literature when considering how trust in a source will impact an individual’s receptivity to pseudo-profound bullshit. An individual’s trust in a given source will influence how content from that source is evaluated, and consequently how it is perceived (Hovland & Weiss, 1951; Lorge 1936). Pseudo-profound bullshit is bullshit that is constructed in a way that sounds impressive due to obscure and complex language but is empty of meaning (Pennycook et al., 2015b). Two studies were designed to explore the relationship between information about who the source of the content is, participants opinion of that source, and pseudo-profound bullshit receptivity. Study One (N = 163) was meant to replicate and extend previous findings of Pennycook and colleagues’ 2015(b) study by including another individual to provide content, and to replicate findings with respect to the Cognitive Reflection Task (CRT). Study Two compared conditions of Source (source provided or not) and opinions (reliability, fandom) to see how these conditions affect bullshit receptivity. It was thought that a positive opinion of a presented source would result in higher profundity ratings, whereas a negative opinion with a source presented would result in lower profundity ratings. Results were expected to be similar regardless of opinion when no source information was provided. Results from Study One were as expected, with strong (r > .70) positive correlations between real and generated phrases, which correlate negatively with the CRT. This implies that the real and generated content are psychologically indistinguishable. Study Two proceeded but found no main interaction for source condition and opinion. Presence or absence of the given source did not have a direct impact on profundity ratings. Limitations and future directions are discussed.