People Receptive To False Inspirational Quotes Have Lower Intelligence: Study


You may have scrolled through your Facebook, Twitter or Instagram feed and came across a line similar to this: “Power is the driver of beauty. We believe, we exist, we are reborn.” Or this:“Freedom transforms the mechanics of observations.”  You may have even seen some of these statements transformed into typography with a beautiful landscape as a background.

The above statements may seem utterly profound at first glance, but a group of experts in Canada say that they do not mean much if you dissect each word.

In a paper featured in the journal Judgment and Decision Making, researchers examined the quality of these quotations and determined if individuals could distinguish which statements were deeply introspective and which were just pseudo-profound baloney.

Study lead author Gordon Pennycook of the University of Waterloo recalled that he first came across a website called New Age Bulls-t Generator which produces these seemingly inspirational statements.

“I thought, ‘I wonder if people would actually rate such blatant bulls–t as profound,” said Pennycook.

He and his colleagues tested about 800 respondents by using statements from the website. They also generated nonsensical sayings from The Enigmatic Wisdom of Deepak Chopra, a website which is meant to imitate the sayings of the spiritual leader.

Pennycook explained that the generated sayings may seem to convey some sort of profound meaning, but they are only a collection of buzzwords put together randomly in a sentence with the correct syntax.

The respondents rated how deep or profound the statements were on a score of 1 to 5. Nearly 27 percent of the respondents rated an average score of 3 of higher. Researchers said this showed that these respondents were “tricked” to believe the phony quotes as meaningful.

Afterwards, Pennycook and his team also added some legitimate statements from Deepak Chopra into the list of nonsensical ones. They also mixed in statements without any deep meaning such as “a wet person does not fear the rain.” About 20 percent of the respondents believed these statements were meaningful.

In the end, researchers found that respondents who were most receptive to these profound quotes have less cognitive ability such as verbal, numerical and fluid intelligence. They were also more prone to believing in conspiracy theories and paranormal beliefs.