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Openness/Intellect and Susceptibility to Pseudo‐Profound Bullshit: A Replication and Extension

‘Pseudo‐profound bullshit’ (PPBS) is a class of meaningless statements designed to appear profound. Profundity ratings for PPBS have been found to be negatively related to analytical thinking and positively related to epistemically suspect beliefs (e.g. belief in the paranormal). Conceptually similar traits within the Openness/Intellect (O/I) domain form a simplex, whereby traits are arranged along a single dimension from intelligence to apophenia (i.e. observing patterns or causal connections were none exist). Across two studies (total N = 297), we attempted to replicate the O/I simplex and determine how it relates to perceiving PPBS as profound. Participants completed questionnaires measuring traits from the O/I simplex and provided profundity ratings for PPBS. Profundity ratings of PPBS tended to correlate negatively with intelligence and positively with apophenia. The association with intelligence generally reflected a greater ability to discriminate the profound from the pseudo‐profound, whereas the association with apophenia reflected poorer discrimination in Study 1, with less conclusive results in Study 2. In both studies, the O/I simplex was closely replicated. The results suggest a link between the O/I domain and perceiving PPBS as profound and tentatively support the theory that intelligence may protect against apophenia.

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