According to new study, right-wing individuals are more likely to fall for political bullshit

According to new study, right-wing individuals are more likely to fall for political bullshit ...

According to new study, politically conservative individuals tend to be slightly more aceptive to political bullshit. The paper, which analyzed "statements of political content that aim to persuade voters, but are so vague and broad that they are practically useless," has been published in the Journal of Social and Political Psychology.

Vukasin Gligoric, the author of the article and a PhD candidate at the University of Amsterdam, said he was drawn to investigate the topic of political bullshit for two reasons.

“It's because I’ve been interested in politics and political psychology for quite some time,” he said. “I was also inspired by Gordon Pennycook and his colleagues' very similar work on pseudo-profound bullshit, which they presented in a paper that examined whether neoliberals are more aceptive to pseudo-profound bullshit. In the discussion, they give a hypothetical example of bullshit in politics, where politicians could say, ‘I believe in America!’ The

Gligoric was surprised to discover that little research on the subject, given how often politicians use grandiose phrases that have no real meaning.

The new findings are based on a study with 179 people from the United States, 185 Serbians, and 170 Dutch participants.

The researchers presented the participants with a list of pseudo-profound bullshit ("Good health brings forth subtle creativity") as well as meaningful sentences ("A river cuts through a rock, not because of its power but its persistence"), in accordance with previous research on bullshit receptivity.

The researchers asked participants to read about hypothetical political programs that had been proposed during presidential elections in the fictional country of Gonfel to assess their willingness to accept political bullshit.

Three of the programs were "meaningless and empty." For example, "Our political program is based on the unity of our people in Gonfel." We promise that the government that we create will work for its people, not against its people, as it has been the case for the last several decades." Our greatest effort will be to restore dignity to our country so that we do not place shame on our ancestors. Pride and dignity are our values, and I pledge myself to fight for them."

Three noteworthy political programs that talked about specific policies were also included. For example, one program outlined a strategy to reduce university tuition fees by 20% and provide affordable medical treatment to individuals with income below the average.

The researchers asked the participants to rate how persuasive five political slogans were, and then to rate how persuasive 15 political statements were. The political statements included a mix of bullshit (“To politically lead the people means to always fight for them”) and factual statements (“The president and the prime minister have important political functions.”

Participants who were more receptive to pseudo-profound bullshit tended to be more receptive to political bullshit as well, according to Gligori. "It's not nonsense or lying," Gligori said of the study.

Participants who endorsed statements such as "The free market economic system is an efficient system" were more receptive to political bullshit, according to the researchers. Additionally, endorsement of political bullshit was associated with a higher probability of voting for conservative candidates.

"It appears that right-wing individuals, especially neoliberals, are more likely to fall for it," Gligori said. "We need further study on this." One significant point about the study is that it focused on how receptive people are – we don't know which side of the political spectrum uses it more. But I would say that everybody does it, and it's just a structural feature of politics."

Future research might help to develop a more straightforward measure of receptivity to political bullshit. "I think the best move forward is to come up with a measure of how much politicians use political bullshit," Gligori added.

Vukain Gligori, Allard Feddes, and Bertjan Doosje co-authored the research titled "Political Bullshit Receptivity and its Correlates: A Cross-Country Validation of the Concept."

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