Centrists Have Great Bullshit Radar (in Sweden, Anyway)

Via Tyler Cowen, here are the results of “The Complex Relation Between Receptivity to Pseudo-Profound Bullshit and Political Ideology,” a recently published paper:

Among Swedish adults (N = 985), bullshit receptivity was (a) robustly positively associated with socially conservative (vs. liberal) self-placement, resistance to change, and particularly binding moral intuitions (loyalty, authority, purity); (b) associated with centrism on preference for equality and even leftism (when controlling for other aspects of ideology) on economic ideology self-placement; and (c) lowest among right-of-center social liberal voters and highest among left-wing green voters.

I don’t have access to the finished paper, but here are the main findings from a preprint version:

For some reason, “bullshit receptivity” is reversed in the chart, so lower numbers mean a higher affinity for bullshit. In Sweden, at least, the lowest tolerance for bullshit is clearly in the center: the two most centrist partisan categories have high reasoning abilities, excellent sensitivity to bullshit, and very low tolerance for it.

The highest tolerance for bullshit is among Greens and two of the right-wing parties. The far left and social democrats are about average.

What I was most curious about, however, was how the authors identified bullshit. It turns out there’s considerable prior research on this, but the paper provides one example:

We measured bullshit receptivity and profoundness receptivity by asking participants to rate the meaningfulness and profundity of seven bullshit statements (e.g., “Your movement transforms universal observations”) and seven genuine aphorisms (e.g., “Your teacher can open the door, but you have to step in”) respectively on a Likert response bar ranging from 1 (not at all meaningful) to 6 (very meaningful).

I guess that sounds reasonable, although seven statements seems a little thin. Still, I’d count this as a big win for centrists. Maybe they have more going for them than we partisan types care to admit?

Fact:

In-depth journalism that investigates the powerful takes real money and is so damn important right now.But it doesn’t take a Mother Jones investigation to know that billionaires and corporations will never fund the type of reporting (like they do politicians) we do that exists to help bring about change. Instead, our mission-driven journalism is made possible by people power, and has been for 46 years now since our founding as a non-profit.

In “TITLE TK” Monica Bauerlein writes about the perilous moment we’re in, and why it’s so important that we raise $325,000 by the time November’s midterms are decided so we can be ready to throw everything we have at the big issues facing the nation no matter what happens. Please help MoJo’s people-powered journalism with a donation today.

$400,000 to go!

payment methods

Fact:

In-depth journalism that investigates the powerful takes real money and is so damn important right now.But it doesn’t take a Mother Jones investigation to know that billionaires and corporations will never fund the type of reporting (like they do politicians) we do that exists to help bring about change. Instead, our mission-driven journalism is made possible by people power, and has been for 46 years now since our founding as a non-profit.

In “TITLE TK” Monica Bauerlein writes about the perilous moment we’re in, and why it’s so important that we raise $325,000 by the time November’s midterms are decided so we can be ready to throw everything we have at the big issues facing the nation no matter what happens. Please help MoJo’s people-powered journalism with a donation today.

$400,000 to go!

payment methods

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our free newsletter

Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily to have our top stories delivered directly to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate