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Turns out you absolutely can bulls- -t a bulls- -tter.
Canadian researchers who studied the psychological effects of lying have revealed that those who tend to exaggerate or distort statements may also be more gullible and likely to believe the lies of others.
“It probably seems intuitive to believe that you can’t ‘bulls- -t a bulls- -tter,’ but our research suggests that this isn’t actually the case,” said Shane Littrell, lead author and psychology Ph.D. candidate at the University of Waterloo in Canada. “In fact, it appears that the biggest purveyors of persuasive bulls- -t are ironically some of the ones most likely to fall for it.”
By Littrell’s standards, “bulls- -t” is that which intends to impress, sway or evade through the use of misleading or distorted information. From there, researchers identified two forms of bulls- -t: “persuasive,” which aims to influence, and “evasive,” a self-preservation tactic.
His team found that people who participate in what they dubbed “persuasive bulls- -tting” are paradoxically very bad at identifying the trumped-up tales from other people. Their findings, publishing in the British Journal of Psychology, were most acute while attempting to parse scientific fact from fiction.
On the other hand, those deemed “evasive” liars proved much keener at making honest distinctions.
Their study of more than 800 Canadian and American adults examined how participants’ tendency to fib related to their comprehension of pseudo-scientific claims and “fake news.” Volunteers were also measured for their individual cognitive abilities, intellect and self-awareness.
“We found that the more frequently someone engages in persuasive bulls- -tting, the more likely they are to be duped by various types of misleading information regardless of their cognitive ability, engagement in reflective thinking, or metacognitive skills,” Littrell said in a media statement.
“Persuasive bulls- -tters seem to mistake superficial profoundness for actual profoundness,” he said. “So, if something simply sounds profound, truthful or accurate to them that means it really is. But evasive bulls- -tters were much better at making this distinction.”
Researchers hope their study may contribute to our understanding of the mechanisms behind misinformation, and why so many are susceptible to “fake news” headlines.
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