Why people think total nonsense is really deep

Roberto A. Ferdman in the Washington Post:

ScreenHunter_1535 Dec. 05 22.11Words can be inspiring, even when they're arranged into vague, fancy-sounding sequences that seem deep but say nothing.

Take the sentence “wholeness quiets infinite phenomena.” It's complete and utter nonsense. In fact, it was randomly generated by a Web site. And many might have seen this immediately, or realized it after thinking it through.

But the truth is that a surprising number of people would likely have called the bogus statement profound.

“A lot of people are prone to what I call pseudo-profound bulls***,” said Gordon Pennycook, a doctorate student at the University of Waterloo who studies why some people are more easily duped than others.

“Wholeness quiets infinite phenomena” was one of many randomly generated sentences Pennycook, along with a team of researchers at the University of Waterloo, used in a new four-part study put together to gauge how receptive people are to nonsense. Pennycook used a Web site — which refers to itself with an expletive for the sentences it produces — to generate the language samples.

More here.