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?

FOLLOW THE MONEY

Corporations and billionaires don’t fund journalism like ours that exists to shake things up. Instead, support from readers allows Mother Jones to call it like it is without fear, favor, or false equivalence.

And right now, a longtime friend of Mother Jones has pledged an incredibly generous gift to inspire—and double—giving from online readers. That's huge! Because you can see that our fall fundraising drive is well behind the $325,000 we need to raise. So if you agree that in-depth, fiercely independent journalism matters right now, please support our work and help us raise the money it takes to keep Mother Jones charging hard. Your gift, and all online donations up to $94,000 total, will be matched and go twice as far—but only until the November 9 deadline.

$400,000 to go: Please help us pick up the pace!

payment methods

FOLLOW THE MONEY

Corporations and billionaires don’t fund journalism like ours that exists to shake things up. Instead, support from readers allows Mother Jones to call it like it is without fear, favor, or false equivalence.

And right now, a longtime friend of Mother Jones has pledged an incredibly generous gift to inspire—and double—giving from online readers. That's huge! Because you can see that our fall fundraising drive is well behind the $325,000 we need to raise. So if you agree that in-depth, fiercely independent journalism matters right now, please support our work and help us raise the money it takes to keep Mother Jones charging hard. Your gift, and all online donations up $94,000 total, will be matched and go twice as far—but only until the November 9 deadline.

$400,000 to go: Please help us pick up the pace!

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