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Detecting bullshit: The roles of response latency and topic complexity

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abstract
Bullshitting, defined as communicating with little to no concern for truth, evidence, and/or established knowledge (Frankfurt, 1986), can potentially cause more damage to society than lying. However, very little is known about the strategies or social cues people use to detect bullshit. The current investigation was designed to examine the interactive effect of response latency and topic complexity on socially perceived bullshitting behavior as a useful strategy to detect bullshit. In two experiments, participants were shown a video displaying a text chat that varied the topic complexity (i.e., simple or complex) and response latency (fast/shorter latency or slow/longer latency). Experiment 1 revealed a general social expectation that relatively more complex topics require more time to explain compared to simpler topics. Results of Experiment 2 also suggest that people conjointly adopt response latency and topic complexity as cues to detect bullshit. That is, when the topic is simple, longer latency or slower responses tend to be socially perceived as bullshit; whereas when the topic is complex, shorter latency or faster responses tend to be socially perceived as bullshit. The potential mediation effect of expertise evaluation when making bullshit judgments is also explored.
subject
Bullshit
Bullshitting
Communication
Evidence
Lying
Speed of thoughts
contributor
Shang, Xiao (author)
Petrocelli, John V (committee chair)
Hazen, Michael D (committee member)
Masicampo, E. J. (committee member)
date
2020-05-29T08:36:12Z (accessioned)
2020 (issued)
degree
Psychology (discipline)
2025-06-01 (liftdate)
embargo
2025-06-01 (terms)
identifier
http://hdl.handle.net/10339/96857 (uri)
language
en (iso)
publisher
Wake Forest University
title
Detecting bullshit: The roles of response latency and topic complexity
type
Thesis

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