Self-Motivation
David Goggins
Former Navy Seal
Career Development
Bryan Cranston
Actor
Critical Thinking
Liv Boeree
International Poker Champion
Emotional Intelligence
Amaryllis Fox
Former CIA Clandestine Operative
Management
Chris Hadfield
Retired Canadian Astronaut & Author
Learn
from the world's big
thinkers
Start Learning

If you have this condition, you’re more likely to believe “pseudo-profound bullsh*t"

Researchers find out why some people believe utter BS.

Pixabay
  • Scientists discover that people who have high apophenia are more likely to believe "pseudo-profound bullshit".
  • Apophenia is a tendency to see patterns and connections that aren't really there.
  • The condition could be a precursor to more serious mental illness.

If you've been feeling snarky about the motivational posts some of your friends keep posting on social media, there's a new study for you. It turns out, as researchers from the University of Melbourne in Australia discovered, there is a condition that makes people more susceptible to so-called "pseudo-profound bullshit statements"(PPBS).

The name of this affliction is "apophenia," which means having a tendency to find patterns or connections where none are present. The scientists concluded that people with high apophenia couldn't differentiate well between statements that were actually profound and those that were pseudo-profound.

The study's co-author Timothy Bainbridge of the University of Melbourne was drawn to PPBS expressions for "the strangely alluring sense that they should mean something, while not meaning anything," as he related in an interview.

The researchers carried out two studies that involved 297 college students, who had to read and rate various statements – some of them genuinely profound, some more everyday, and others high in pseudo-profundity. If you're wondering, examples of such included gems like "Hidden meaning transforms unparalleled abstract beauty" and "Wholeness quiets infinite phenomena."

An instance of a truly profound sentence from the study was "The creative adult is the child who survived." Certainly, one could argue there is some subjectivity in judging what is truly meaningful.

The participants whose measures of apophenia were higher were also the ones more likely to rate PPBS statements as more profound. Conversely, those who had higher intelligence scores, generally found pseudo-profound BS less appealing and were able to pick out the truer ideas.

"I think the take-home from this paper is that people who find PPBS profound do so more because of an inability to discriminate the profound from the pseudo-profound rather than because of a general propensity to find all statements profound," Bainbridge told PsyPost.

The German psychiatrist Klaus Conrad coined the term "apophenia" in 1958, which he defined as "unmotivated seeing of connections [accompanied by] a specific feeling of abnormal meaningfulness." He saw it as an early stage of delusional thought leading to schizophrenia.

You can read the new study "Openness/Intellect and Susceptibility to Pseudo‐Profound Bullshit: A Replication and Extension" in the European Journal of Personality.

Besides Bainbridge, the study was also authored by Joshua A. Quinlan, Raymond A. Mar, and Luke D. Smillie.

Check out also this great lecture from another team working on understanding people's propensity to believe bullshit --

Hints of the 4th dimension have been detected by physicists

What would it be like to experience the 4th dimension?

Two different experiments show hints of a 4th spatial dimension. Credit: Zilberberg Group / ETH Zürich
Technology & Innovation

Physicists have understood at least theoretically, that there may be higher dimensions, besides our normal three. The first clue came in 1905 when Einstein developed his theory of special relativity. Of course, by dimensions we’re talking about length, width, and height. Generally speaking, when we talk about a fourth dimension, it’s considered space-time. But here, physicists mean a spatial dimension beyond the normal three, not a parallel universe, as such dimensions are mistaken for in popular sci-fi shows.

Keep reading Show less

A new hydrogel might be strong enough for knee replacements

Duke University researchers might have solved a half-century old problem.

Lee Jae-Sung of Korea Republic lies on the pitch holding his knee during the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia group F match between Korea Republic and Germany at Kazan Arena on June 27, 2018 in Kazan, Russia.

Photo by Alexander Hassenstein/Getty Images
Technology & Innovation
  • Duke University researchers created a hydrogel that appears to be as strong and flexible as human cartilage.
  • The blend of three polymers provides enough flexibility and durability to mimic the knee.
  • The next step is to test this hydrogel in sheep; human use can take at least three years.
Keep reading Show less

Predicting PTSD symptoms becomes possible with a new test

An algorithm may allow doctors to assess PTSD candidates for early intervention after traumatic ER visits.

Image source: camillo jimenez/Unsplash
Technology & Innovation
  • 10-15% of people visiting emergency rooms eventually develop symptoms of long-lasting PTSD.
  • Early treatment is available but there's been no way to tell who needs it.
  • Using clinical data already being collected, machine learning can identify who's at risk.

The psychological scars a traumatic experience can leave behind may have a more profound effect on a person than the original traumatic experience. Long after an acute emergency is resolved, victims of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) continue to suffer its consequences.

In the U.S. some 30 million patients are annually treated in emergency departments (EDs) for a range of traumatic injuries. Add to that urgent admissions to the ED with the onset of COVID-19 symptoms. Health experts predict that some 10 percent to 15 percent of these people will develop long-lasting PTSD within a year of the initial incident. While there are interventions that can help individuals avoid PTSD, there's been no reliable way to identify those most likely to need it.

That may now have changed. A multi-disciplinary team of researchers has developed a method for predicting who is most likely to develop PTSD after a traumatic emergency-room experience. Their study is published in the journal Nature Medicine.

70 data points and machine learning

nurse wrapping patient's arm

Image source: Creators Collective/Unsplash

Study lead author Katharina Schultebraucks of Columbia University's Department Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons says:

"For many trauma patients, the ED visit is often their sole contact with the health care system. The time immediately after a traumatic injury is a critical window for identifying people at risk for PTSD and arranging appropriate follow-up treatment. The earlier we can treat those at risk, the better the likely outcomes."

The new PTSD test uses machine learning and 70 clinical data points plus a clinical stress-level assessment to develop a PTSD score for an individual that identifies their risk of acquiring the condition.

Among the 70 data points are stress hormone levels, inflammatory signals, high blood pressure, and an anxiety-level assessment. Says Schultebraucks, "We selected measures that are routinely collected in the ED and logged in the electronic medical record, plus answers to a few short questions about the psychological stress response. The idea was to create a tool that would be universally available and would add little burden to ED personnel."

Researchers used data from adult trauma survivors in Atlanta, Georgia (377 individuals) and New York City (221 individuals) to test their system.

Of this cohort, 90 percent of those predicted to be at high risk developed long-lasting PTSD symptoms within a year of the initial traumatic event — just 5 percent of people who never developed PTSD symptoms had been erroneously identified as being at risk.

On the other side of the coin, 29 percent of individuals were 'false negatives," tagged by the algorithm as not being at risk of PTSD, but then developing symptoms.

Going forward

person leaning their head on another's shoulder

Image source: Külli Kittus/Unsplash

Schultebraucks looks forward to more testing as the researchers continue to refine their algorithm and to instill confidence in the approach among ED clinicians: "Because previous models for predicting PTSD risk have not been validated in independent samples like our model, they haven't been adopted in clinical practice." She expects that, "Testing and validation of our model in larger samples will be necessary for the algorithm to be ready-to-use in the general population."

"Currently only 7% of level-1 trauma centers routinely screen for PTSD," notes Schultebraucks. "We hope that the algorithm will provide ED clinicians with a rapid, automatic readout that they could use for discharge planning and the prevention of PTSD." She envisions the algorithm being implemented in the future as a feature of electronic medical records.

The researchers also plan to test their algorithm at predicting PTSD in people whose traumatic experiences come in the form of health events such as heart attacks and strokes, as opposed to visits to the emergency department.

Surprising Science

How often do vaccine trials hit paydirt?

Vaccines find more success in development than any other kind of drug, but have been relatively neglected in recent decades.

Scroll down to load more…
Quantcast