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Posting inspirational quotes linked to lower levels of intelligence, science says


We've all done it. Found an inspirational message that's made us smile, laugh or reaffirmed our beliefs so much we've wanted to re-post it and share it ourselves. Such quotes are the staple of every social media feed.

But they may be less so now a study out this week has found that people who share profound declarations on social media tend to be less intelligent.

The research, with its cut-to-the-chase title On the reception and detection of pseudo-profound bulls***t  found that people who are more receptive to such quotes get lower scores in cognitive tests. They are also more prone to believing in the paranormal, hold religious beliefs and are taken in by conspiracy theories.

Vindication for anyone who has ever un-friended and un-followed someone who is constantly posting upbeat mottos on their Twitter and Facebook feeds then, it seems.  


From my book #SuperGenes with Rudy Tanzi.

A photo posted by Deepak Chopra (@deepakchopra) on

During four experiments involving 845 volunteers, participants were asked to evaluate a series of statements to indicate how profound they thought they were or if they agreed with them. 

Many of the quotes used in the test were posted on Twitter by author and New Age guru Deepak Chopra, who describes himself as a Citizen of the Cosmos. 

Researchers mixed statements that deliberately blended together buzzwords into meaningless sentences and mundane statements that could also be considered profound.

In a follow-up test, the researchers also asked the participants to perform a series of cognitive tests. 

In one they asked them if they agreed with a series of statements about religion, the paranormal or conspiracy theories.

From my new book #SuperGenes with Rudy Tanzi.

A photo posted by Deepak Chopra (@deepakchopra) on

Writing in the journal, Judgment and Decision Making, lead researcher Gordon Pennycook, a cognitive psychologist at the University of Waterloo, in Ontario, explains: “Those more receptive to bulls**t are less reflective, lower in cognitive ability - numeracy, verbal and fluid intelligence, are more prone to ontological confusions and conspiratorial ideation, are more likely to hold religious and paranormal beliefs, and are more likely to endorse complementary and alternative medicine.”

After the paper was published, Professor Brian Cox posted a link to it on Deepak's Twitter feed. 

He responded by saying: “Brian good for you. No resistance, no anticipation, no regrets - just this moment as it is is also my motto.'

He later added: “S**t of any kind is profound. It is stardust and recycles as life. Of all people you should know.”

The trend to post inspirational quotes has also led to a backlash of copycat social media sites which post parodies of them. The Instagram site Uninspirational specialises in posting more real messages - like the one below -  to counteract the deluge of motivational messages out there.  


#thank #you @theyearofelan

A photo posted by Unspirational (@unspirational) on


A photo posted by Unspirational (@unspirational) on

Do it. @oneoeight.tv #kindness

A photo posted by Rachel Brathen (@yoga_girl) on



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