Bullshit Ability as an Honest Signal of Intelligence

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Ego
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Bullshit Ability as an Honest Signal of Intelligence

Post by Ego »

From the journal Evolutionary Psychology

https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/full/1 ... 9211000317
Abstract
Navigating social systems efficiently is critical to our species. Humans appear endowed with a cognitive system that has formed to meet the unique challenges that emerge for highly social species. Bullshitting, communication characterised by an intent to be convincing or impressive without concern for truth, is ubiquitous within human societies. Across two studies (N = 1,017), we assess participants’ ability to produce satisfying and seemingly accurate bullshit as an honest signal of their intelligence. We find that bullshit ability is associated with an individual’s intelligence and individuals capable of producing more satisfying bullshit are judged by second-hand observers to be more intelligent. We interpret these results as adding evidence for intelligence being geared towards the navigation of social systems. The ability to produce satisfying bullshit may serve to assist individuals in negotiating their social world, both as an energetically efficient strategy for impressing others and as an honest signal of intelligence

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Re: Bullshit Ability as an Honest Signal of Intelligence

Post by ertyu »

Any tips, anyone :lol:

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Re: Bullshit Ability as an Honest Signal of Intelligence

Post by jacob »

"Deception" would have been a better word.

In the post-truth vernacular, bullshit now means something that is served both w/o concern for the truth but also w/o concern for whether it's believed or even remembered by the more intelligent members of the species.

IOW, bullshit is the ability to make up ... well bullshit. The archetype of bullshit artists is the ESTP (used car salesman) who is able to come up with random explanations on the fly to make the sale. This only works on customers who lack contextual knowledge about cars.

Deception requires weaving a story convincing enough to fool people with contextual knowledge. E.g. you can't bullshit a mechanic when selling them a car but you may be able to deceive them. The mechanic would likely consider the simple bullshitter to be an idiot. (See some of the DIY threads.)

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Ego
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Re: Bullshit Ability as an Honest Signal of Intelligence

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Ego
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Re: Bullshit Ability as an Honest Signal of Intelligence

Post by Ego »

jacob wrote:
Mon May 17, 2021 8:23 am
"Deception" would have been a better word.

The mechanic would likely consider the simple bullshitter to be an idiot. (See some of the DIY threads.)
It seems the goal of the type of bullshitting they are talking about is not to sell a car or deceive in any way. The goal itself is an honest one, to signal intelligence.
In biology, an “honest signal” is one that conveys accurate information about an unobservable trait to another organism. For example, a brightly colored frog that is poisonous honestly signals its toxicity to predators; it looks dangerous, because it is. In contrast, a dishonest signal is an attempt to mislead another organism into believing that the signaler possesses a trait which it does not. For example, a harmless insect may possess the same coloration as a harmful wasp, falsely signaling that it is just as dangerous as a wasp in order to avoid predation; it looks dangerous, but it is not. In the context of sexual signaling in humans, a person of high intelligence who is able to communicate this to others is giving an honest signal that they possess this desirable trait. In this case, the “honesty” of a signal is independent of the truth content of the specific communication used to signal. For example, a smooth and intelligent liar may give the impression that they are intelligent even while saying nothing true.
Also, check out some of the references.

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Re: Bullshit Ability as an Honest Signal of Intelligence

Post by Alphaville »

haha! i believe it.

now we need a study of bullshit detector ability. that should throw out some interesting results. eg. maybe we live in a bullshit arms race: "don't bullshit a bullshitter" :D

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Re: Bullshit Ability as an Honest Signal of Intelligence

Post by Dream of Freedom »

;) what is the utility of that? If they are smart you know that will be good at all kinds of things. So since it's cognitively demanding you will probably assume that they are better at deception without a study. If you try to use deception ability to determine intelligence you run into the problem that if someone is successful in the deception you won't know it. Besides people are fairly good at figuring intelligence out very quickly though verbal cues. There is even evidence that people can tell by sight how they are smart they are better than chance.
Last edited by Dream of Freedom on Mon May 17, 2021 9:56 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Bullshit Ability as an Honest Signal of Intelligence

Post by daylen »

If deception is good enough then how is it any different than the truth? One answer is .. because it is the truth! .. or so we tell ourselves .. :?

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Re: Bullshit Ability as an Honest Signal of Intelligence

Post by Alphaville »

daylen wrote:
Mon May 17, 2021 9:38 am
If deception is good enough then how is it any different than the truth? One answer is .. because it is the truth! .. or so we tell ourselves .. :?
deception is good enough for social manipulation (evolutionary) but not for knowledge.

still, if you think about it, most pseudoscience is generated by smart people. a bullshit generator is the same as a hypothesis generator, just unchecked by rigor or testing. nevertheless, good bullshit contains some rigor in itself, i.e., it's not evidently bullshit at first inspection.

rigor (intellectual)or honesty (moral) come only after imagination. i.e. write first, edit later.

so this leaves us another function for bullshit we shouldn't forget: entertainment. which is how scheherazade kept her head. :D

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Re: Bullshit Ability as an Honest Signal of Intelligence

Post by daylen »

In my experience, whenever someone claims to have knowledge, they describe a set of deceptions leading to a conclusion that ends up being deceptive [yet "enlightening" when seen in contrast] upon further investigation.

In some sense, teaching/learning is the art of deceiving prior deceptions.

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Re: Bullshit Ability as an Honest Signal of Intelligence

Post by Qazwer »

Go back to some of modern thoughts of how and why humans evolved the way they did - language, communication and community standing allowed groups to succeed - internal to that group ability to understand work with other and be promoted is important - dual level of selection
We are the species that tells stories and derives common meaning - the ability to BS is part of that - the correct story can be less important on both levels of selection than having one that the group can embrace
Group selection chooses on the tightness of the group (work together) - individual selection chooses on the ability of the individual to do well in that group - BS ability is chosen along both criteria
Until we had science that could actually make changes in genetic code or actually build really big buildings, being incorrect was less dangerous than being alone

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Re: Bullshit Ability as an Honest Signal of Intelligence

Post by Tyler9000 »

I could see the argument that the ability to read the room, think on your feet, and make up a compelling and convincing story on the fly could be a marker for general intelligence (both standard and emotional). Not everybody can do that.

But taking it one step further to "satisfying bullshit" starts to feel like one of those blind psychological experiments where the person doing the judging doesn't realize he/she is actually the subject of the experiment. The term is just a creatively succinct way to describe "lies people tell that make me happy because I either don't know any better or it's what I want to hear". It tells you more about the recipient than about the bullshitter.

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Re: Bullshit Ability as an Honest Signal of Intelligence

Post by Dream of Freedom »

I wonder how it relates to the agreeableness personality trait. I'd guess that it would gravitate to the extremes of the bell curve. The most agreeable using it to keep the peace and the least agreeable using it to compete.

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Re: Bullshit Ability as an Honest Signal of Intelligence

Post by jennypenny »

jacob wrote:
Mon May 17, 2021 8:23 am
"Deception" would have been a better word.
Yeah, I think people develop A-game BS when they don't have anything legit to contribute. Maybe it's a weird mt. stupid thing where a person is smart enough to know they should bring something to the table but not smart enough to come up with anything other than pretense.

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Re: Bullshit Ability as an Honest Signal of Intelligence

Post by biaggio »

In software industry bullshitters tend to concentrate around product roles.

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Re: Bullshit Ability as an Honest Signal of Intelligence

Post by bostonimproper »

Dream of Freedom wrote:
Mon May 17, 2021 9:33 am
;) what is the utility of that? If they are smart you know that will be good at all kinds of things. So since it's cognitively demanding you will probably assume that they are better at deception without a study.
This^ +1. Not to mention you have a really weird sample set with UWaterloo students, who take on the order of 4+ corporate internships by the time they graduate— so you’re picking folks who are *actively honing* and competing with one another based on their BS ability.

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Re: Bullshit Ability as an Honest Signal of Intelligence

Post by Campitor »

I think it's only possible to BS people for a limited time; people are more astute than they let on. Folks are just averse to confronting a BS'er in order to avoid open conflict.

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Re: Bullshit Ability as an Honest Signal of Intelligence

Post by NuncFluens »

Campitor wrote:
Tue May 18, 2021 1:44 am
I think it's only possible to BS people for a limited time; people are more astute than they let on. Folks are just averse to confronting a BS'er in order to avoid open conflict.
I think Bullshitting as a general strategy for life might have that problem. But discretionary BS to smooth over (temporary) cracks has served me quite well in my job. Since we have no project management to speak of, I have to "sell" the week's work to my boss every week. Due to the non-linear process of my branch of software-development this would leave me looking like a slacker a lot of the time. But, as a colleague recently pointed out, the boss just needs to feel good until the product is good. This obviously only works if I can get myself back on track without admitting defeat after BSing for a few weeks. So maybe the real sign of intelligence (signalling aside) is knowing when you can BS and when you're just digging a deeper hole for yourself with it.

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Re: Bullshit Ability as an Honest Signal of Intelligence

Post by boomly »

It may simply be that intelligent people are better at everything (with practice), including bullshitting.

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Re: Bullshit Ability as an Honest Signal of Intelligence

Post by Riggerjack »

Not to mention you have a really weird sample set with UWaterloo students, who take on the order of 4+ corporate internships by the time they graduate— so you’re picking folks who are *actively honing* and competing with one another based on their BS ability.
It turns out that undergrads strongly associate satisfying BS and intelligence.

The Psychology Dept thinks this is a Significant Result.

But the Dean of Admissions knows this is the basis of the business model. :twisted:

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