Information operations · Information Warfare

BS Revisited

Anonymous expert compilation, analysis, and reporting.

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After decades of people ignoring the problem, there appears to finally be some interest in researching the problem again. An excellent article in the WSJ, pointing to three recent and very interesting publications.

Fine-Tune Your B.S. Detector: You’ll Need It – WSJ

In the digital age, misinformation—from nonsense to lies—spreads faster than ever and is becoming an area of serious research.

Antecedents of bullshitting

• Bullshitting involves communicating with little concern for evidence or truth.
• Bullshitting behavior appears to have specific antecedents.
• People bullshit when obligated to communicate about things they know little about.
• People bullshit when expecting to receive a social pass of acceptability for it.
• Bullshitting is attenuated when social cues signal difficulty in obtaining a pass.
Abstract:  Although it appears to be a common social behavior, very little is known about the nature of bullshitting (i.e., communicating with little to no regard for evidence, established knowledge, or truth; Frankfurt, 1986) and the social conditions under which it is most likely to occur. The current investigation examines specific antecedents of bullshitting, particularly examining topic knowledge, evidence for or against an obligation to provide an opinion hypothesis, and an ease of passing bullshit hypothesis. Experiment 1 suggests that bullshitting is augmented only when both the social expectations to have an opinion, and the cues to show concern for evidence, are weak. Experiment 2 demonstrates that bullshitting can also be attenuated under conditions of social accountability. Results are discussed in light of social perception, attitude change, and new directions aimed at reducing the unwanted effects of bullshitting.

The spread of true and false news online | Science

Lies spread faster than the truth There is worldwide concern over false news and the possibility that it can influence political, economic, and social well-being. To understand how false news spreads, Vosoughi et al. used a data set of rumor cascades on Twitter from 2006 to 2017. About 126,000 rumors were spread by ∼3 million people. False news reached more people than the truth; the top 1% of false news cascades diffused to between 1000 and 100,000 people, whereas the truth rarely diffused to more than 1000 people. Falsehood also diffused faster than the truth. The degree of novelty and the emotional reactions of recipients may be responsible for the differences observed. Science, this issue p. 1146 Abstract We investigated the differential diffusion of all of the verified true and false news stories distributed on Twitter from 2006 to 2017. The data comprise ~126,000 stories tweeted by ~3 million people more than 4.5 million times. We classified news as true or false using information from six independent fact-checking organizations that exhibited 95 to 98% agreement on the classifications. Falsehood diffused significantly farther, faster, deeper, and more broadly than the truth in all categories of information, and the effects were more pronounced for false political news than for false news about terrorism, natural disasters, science, urban legends, or financial information. We found that false news was more novel than true news, which suggests that people were more likely to share novel information. Whereas false stories inspired fear, disgust, and surprise in replies, true stories inspired anticipation, sadness, joy, and trust. Contrary to conventional wisdom, robots accelerated the spread of true and false news at the same rate, implying that false news spreads more than the truth because humans, not robots, are more likely to spread it.

On the reception and detection of pseudo-profound bullshit | Judgment and Decision Making, Vol. 10, No. 6, November 2015, pp. 549–563

Although bullshit is common in everyday life and has attracted attention from philosophers, its reception (critical or ingenuous) has not, to our knowledge, been subject to empirical investigation. Here we focus on pseudo-profound bullshit, which consists of seemingly impressive assertions that are presented as true and meaningful but are actually vacuous. We presented participants with bullshit statements consisting of buzzwords randomly organized into statements with syntactic structure but no discernible meaning (e.g., “Wholeness quiets infinite phenomena”). Across multiple studies, the propensity to judge bullshit statements as profound was associated with a variety of conceptually relevant variables (e.g., intuitive cognitive style, supernatural belief). Parallel associations were less evident among profundity judgments for more conventionally profound (e.g., “A wet person does not fear the rain”) or mundane (e.g., “Newborn babies require constant attention”) statements. These results support the idea that some people are more receptive to this type of bullshit and that detecting it is not merely a matter of indiscriminate skepticism but rather a discernment of deceptive vagueness in otherwise impressive sounding claims. Our results also suggest that a bias toward accepting statements as true may be an important component of pseudo-profound bullshit receptivity. Keywords: bullshit, bullshit detection, dual-process theories, analytic thinking, supernatural beliefs, religiosity, conspiratorial ideation, complementary and alternative medicine.