Thursday, November 11, 2021

The Life-Changing Science of Detecting Bullshit by John Petrocelli

The Life-Changing Science of Detecting Bullshit by John Petrocelli is an interesting book that examines the type of information that's presented by people who don't really care if it's true or not. 

Petrocelli is a professor of Psychology at Wake Forest University and he writes of how bullshit is a disregard of genuine evidence or established knowledge. Maybe a statement is true, maybe it's not, it doesn't really matter to the person making it, nor does it matter to them whether the result of these bullshit statements is harmless or dangerous. A bullshitter move is to refute fact and say that research is needed.

Also in the book is the idea of truth-default bias. People have at least a passive presumption that others are being truthful, so when an idea is heard, that idea is afforded the benefit of the doubt, even if it's blatantly false. Another concept is the ease at which someone remembers something determines how true that thing feels. People remember anecdotes more than they remember actual studies with hard data behind them, and when is something is in the mind, it takes effort to purge it. 

Petrocelli covers that the way to combat bullshit is to have an attitude of skepticism and a practice of questioning, utilizing critical and scientific thinking skills. We need to compel bullshit artists to prove their thoughts and theories, asking them to clarify their claims. Give people a chance to correct themselves and if they don't, treat bullshit like lies, not like harmless statements that we write off as just things certain people say.