People Who Post Inspirational Quotes Really Are Dumber Than Everyone

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A study found that there's a link between low intelligence and believing in inspirational quotes.

Every weekday, I get an email from Notes From the Universe. In these personalized notes, the Universe reminds me that I have dominion over all things. Yes, they're inspirational, and yes, I do occasionally share them on Facebook. 

The surprising thing is that sometimes, one of these notes really hits home and re-energizes me to work toward achieving a dream. I know they're not really from the Universe and that the Universe is a huge concept, and I'm pretty sure it's not all that concerned with me. At any rate, anything that helps to make you feel better, no matter how silly, is a good thing. 

But according to a recent study, there's a link between being not-too-bright and falling for nonsense inspirational quotes.

In the introduction of the study, lead researcher Gordon Pennycook writes, "Here we focus on pseudo-profound bullsh*t, which consists of seemingly impressive assertions that are presented as true and meaningful but are actually vacuous." 

Pseudo-profound bullsh*t is defined as statements that sound incredibly deep and meaningful but actually make almost no sense. An example of this kind of statement might be "Love is the healing of transcendence and all of us." This quote is complete crap and is generated by a website called New Age Bullsh*t Generator, a site that randomly creates fake inspirational quotes for fun.

These quotes aren't intended for you to take seriously or build a new religion around. When Pennycook first came up with the website, he thought it was hilarious. But then he started to think about whether people really believed in these kinds of bogus quotes

"I came across the website, and I just kind of thought about if there was any research on this; I wanted to know if people thought those statements were profound," Pennycook told Vice. "I often see quotes [on my Facebook newsfeed] 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 didn't say the quote. You come across that quite often."

To test people's beliefs in pseudo-profound statements, the researchers (Gordon Pennycook and a team from the University of Waterloo in Canada) used some random statements from the New Age Bullsh*t Generator and some from another site called Wisdom of Chopra. The Chopra site features fictional Deepak Chopra quotes such as, "Innocence is rooted in visible chaos."

They then asked 280 participants (undergrad students) to rate these statements from 1 to 5 based on how profound they found them, with 5 being very profound and 1 being not at all. 

They found that people who are receptive to this kind of pseudo-intellectual bullsh*t aren't as intelligent as those who aren't receptive.

The study also found that people who believed these statements were profound tended to have strong religious beliefs, weren't big thinkers, and were more likely to believe in conspiracy theories, alternative medicine, and the paranormal.

As Pennycook put it, "The basic idea is that people who are more intelligent should be better able to detect that the statements are bullsh*t. And similarly, that people that are more skeptical about supernatural claims should be more skeptical about the bullsh*t presented to them."

I can't say for sure if my Notes From The Universe are profound, but I do find them comforting and encouraging. But as the statement I just got off the New Age Bullsh*t Generator says, "By unfolding, we self-actualize."


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