Bullshit receptivity: what matters is who said it, not what is said

Abstract

The spread of political disinformation remains a problem for democracy. In a digital universe surrendered to the dominance of social media, motivated political reasoning can be an ally of disinformation in general. Our exploratory study is a first approach, in Portugal, to the analysis of receptivity to bullshit.The main objective is to verify how political and partisan orientation can influence the level of receptivity to pseudo-profound bullshit. We used a survey (n = 268) to measure participants' partisanship and ideological orientation and to identify possible political and partisan (a)symmetries regarding receptivity to pseudo-profound bullshit. Our findings revealed that individuals are less receptive to pseudo-profound bullshit attributed to political leaders than when the source is anonymous. Furthermore, partisanship, as motivated reasoning, can determine how respondents evaluate information. We found that the level of receptivity to pseudo-profound bullshit is dependent on the political alignment of the source for left and right supporters. In addition to partisan bias, our results show that people with lower levels of education are more receptive to bullshit in general, which reinforces the need to invest in digital literacy to combat disinformation.

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Published
2022-07-29
Section
Dossier no.12 - Emotion and Cognition in Engagement