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What does the research say about bullshit?

Thu Dec 08 2022

As a researcher and really just as a human nowdays, we’re surrounded by a lot of claims, conjectures, opinions, and really just bullshit. As a psychologist, this got me thinking… What does the research say about bullshit and bullshitting. So, using Ask A Question, I asked:

What is bullshit? Why do people bullshit?

The first question produced an answer, defining bullshit as, “a communication that pretends to be genuinely informative, but really is not.” Taken from the book aptly titled, On Bullshit.

The second question, again paraphrasing from the same book, said that people bullshit because “[he] is unconcerned with whether what he says is true, but is very concerned with how he is thought of by the listener.”

I wanted to understand more. Who was doing research on bullshit and bullshitting? Searcing the term bullshit, shows that there are at least 1409 mentions of bullshit in scientific articles. A quick analysis shows who is publishing the most, where they are doing their research on bullshit, and what is being said.

Next I was curious, which research on bullshit might be bullshit itself or perhaps said more eloqurently, what debates were there in research on bullshit. Filtering by citation types, I narrowed down the search to 44 statements indicating competing or supporting evidence and analyses on bullshit research. It was fascinating to not just see how bullshit was being discussed in the literature but directly to observe challenges and reinforced claims.

If you could simply ask a research articles a question, what would you ask?