Bullshit-sensitivity predicts prosocial behavior

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Bullshit-sensitivity is the ability to distinguish pseudo-profound bullshit sentences (e.g. “Your movement transforms universal observations”) from genuinely profound sentences (e.g. “The person who never made a mistake never tried something new”). Although bullshit-sensitivity has been linked to other individual difference measures, it has not yet been shown to predict any actual behavior. We therefore conducted a survey study with over a thousand participants from a general sample of the Swedish population and assessed participants’ bullshit-receptivity (i.e. their perceived meaningfulness of seven bullshit sentences) and profoundness-receptivity (i.e. their perceived meaningfulness of seven genuinely profound sentences), and used these variables to predict two types of prosocial behavior (self-reported donations and a decision to volunteer for charity). Despite bullshit-receptivity and profoundness-receptivity being positively correlated with each other, logistic regression analyses showed that profoundness-receptivity had a positive association whereas bullshit-receptivity had a negative association with both types of prosocial behavior. These relations held up for the most part when controlling for potentially intermediating factors such as cognitive ability, time spent completing the survey, sex, age, level of education, and religiosity. The results suggest that people who are better at distinguishing the pseudo-profound from the actually profound are more prosocial.


External organisations
  • Linköping University
Research areas and keywords

Subject classification (UKÄ) – MANDATORY

  • Psychology (excluding Applied Psychology)
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0201474
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - 2018 Jul 1
Publication categoryResearch