Psychologically, why do people read poetry

People who post "inspirational" quotes on Facebook are actually stupid, according to a new study

Watch out! | Image: Eva-Maria Vogtel | Flickr |CC BY 2.0

Scrolling through the Facebook feed is a masochistic tick that clings to many of us. In the worst case, this tick reminds us again and again that at some point in life we ​​misjudged various people and then accepted their friend requests. I have to admit, though, that sometimes I really enjoy clicking my way through the profile of my former fifth grade best friend. I like to laugh at memes about the beauty of pit bulls, nostalgic posts about "Back then" and deep quotes about life (you know, "When you let go, you have both hands free - Chinese wisdom" and so on).

However, according to a new study from the University of Waterloo, my former best friend and people in the same vein are actually pretty stupid. In the scientific treatise with the rather flowery title On the reception and detection of pseudo-profound bullshit PhD student Gordon Pennycook and four other researchers write that there is a link between low intelligence and enthusiasm for apparently profound quotations.

In the study, the scientists used the website sebpearce.com, which is used to generate random statements that are supposed to sound profound. The results are surprisingly convincing at first glance, but on closer inspection they hardly make any more sense.

Image: paper debris | Flickr | CC BY 2.0

“I stumbled upon this website by chance and then wondered whether there was any research on this yet. I wanted to know if people really think of such statements as profound, "Pennycook told VICE." In my Facebook news, I often see quotes that might not be that outrageous and that are more motivating — often in the In connection with images of people from whom the quotation is guaranteed not to come. "

During the study, nearly 300 subjects were presented with various statements, including some from the website above. The test persons were then asked to rate the profundity of the quotations on a scale from one to five and classify the sentences in one of the three specified categories (profound, bullshit and banal). In addition, the participants were also subjected to tests in which their cognitive abilities and personality were determined.

Motherboard: The statements of the enigmatic Bitcoin creator Satoshi Nakamoto

For example, the test subjects were presented with the following statement: "Hidden meaning transforms unparalleled abstract beauty."

Those who did not classify this sentence in the bullshit category, but viewed it as profound, were then also found to be of lower intelligence, less willingness to reflect reflective thinking and a tendency towards conspiratorial and supernatural ideas.

In other words: As Nietzsche once said, these people are "trapped in the glass cabinet of the self-reflection of the mind."

Get the best of VICE emailed to you every week!

By subscribing to the VICE newsletter, you consent to receiving electronic communications from VICE, which may contain advertising or sponsored content.