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“Bullshit Makes the Art Grow Profounder” (new research study)

Jonathan Fugelsang, whose team was awarded an Ig Nobel Prize in 2016 for studying the power of pseudo-profound bullshit, has a new study, with other colleagues, about the power of bullshit:

Bullshit Makes the Art Grow Profounder,” Martin Harry Turpin, Alexander C. Walker, Mane Kara-Yakoubian, Nina N. Gabert, Jonathan A. Fugelsang, and Jennifer A. Stolz, Judgment and Decision Making, vol. 14, no. 6, November 2019, pp. 658-670.

The new study says:

Across four studies participants (N = 818) rated the profoundness of abstract art images accompanied with varying categories of titles, including: pseudo-profound bullshit titles (e.g., The Deaf Echo), mundane titles (e.g., Canvas 8), and no titles. Randomly generated pseudo-profound bullshit titles increased the perceived profoundness of computer-generated abstract art, compared to when no titles were present (Study 1). Mundane titles did not enhance the perception of profoundness, indicating that pseudo-profound bullshit titles specifically (as opposed to titles in general) enhance the perceived profoundness of abstract art (Study 2). Furthermore, these effects generalize to artist-created abstract art (Study 3). Finally, we report a large correlation between profoundness ratings for pseudo-profound bullshit and “International Art English” statements (Study 4), a mode and style of communication commonly employed by artists to discuss their work. This correlation suggests that these two independently developed communicative modes share underlying cognitive mechanisms in their interpretations. We discuss the potential for these results to be integrated into a larger, new theoretical framework of bullshit as a low-cost strategy for gaining advantages in prestige awarding domains.

Here’s further detail from the study:

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