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Sunday, October 15, 2023

Bullshit blind spots: the roles of miscalibration and information processing in bullshit detection

Shane Littrell & Jonathan A. Fugelsang
(2023) Thinking & Reasoning
DOI: 10.1080/13546783.2023.2189163


The growing prevalence of misleading information (i.e., bullshit) in society carries with it an increased need to understand the processes underlying many people’s susceptibility to falling for it. Here we report two studies (N = 412) examining the associations between one’s ability to detect pseudo-profound bullshit, confidence in one’s bullshit detection abilities, and the metacognitive experience of evaluating potentially misleading information. We find that people with the lowest (highest) bullshit detection performance overestimate (underestimate) their detection abilities and overplace (underplace) those abilities when compared to others. Additionally, people reported using both intuitive and reflective thinking processes when evaluating misleading information. Taken together, these results show that both highly bullshit-receptive and highly bullshit-resistant people are largely unaware of the extent to which they can detect bullshit and that traditional miserly processing explanations of receptivity to misleading information may be insufficient to fully account for these effects.

Here's my summary:

The authors of the article argue that people have two main blind spots when it comes to detecting bullshit: miscalibration and information processing. Miscalibration is the tendency to overestimate our ability to detect bullshit. We think we're better at detecting bullshit than we actually are.

Information processing is the way that we process information in order to make judgments. The authors argue that we are more likely to be fooled by bullshit when we are not paying close attention or when we are processing information quickly.

The authors also discuss some strategies for overcoming these blind spots. One strategy is to be aware of our own biases and limitations. We should also be critical of the information that we consume and take the time to evaluate evidence carefully.

Overall, the article provides a helpful framework for understanding the challenges of bullshit detection. It also offers some practical advice for overcoming these challenges.

Here are some additional tips for detecting bullshit:
  • Be skeptical of claims that seem too good to be true.
  • Look for evidence to support the claims that are being made.
  • Be aware of the speaker or writer's motives.
  • Ask yourself if the claims are making sense and whether they are consistent with what you already know.
  • If you're not sure whether something is bullshit, it's better to err on the side of caution and be skeptical.