"We were born to be real, not to be perfect."
"Sometimes, you have to forget what you want to remember what you deserve."
"Shoot for the moon. Even if you miss, you'll land among the stars."
If you use Facebook, you probably have a friend who constantly posts smarmy inspirational quotes like these. Chances are, you probably hate that friend (or, even worse, you are that friend). As it turns out, you disdain may be justified: recent research suggests that people who post these bullshit inspiration quotes are actually quite dumb.
The research, conducted by a team of Canadian scientists at University of Waterloo led by Ph.D candidate Gordon Pennycook, set out to investigate the phenomenon of "pseudo-profound bullshit," quotes or phrases that at first glance make an effort to be deeply philosophical, but in reality are completely meaningless.
The team used a "New Age Bullshit Generator" to randomly generate nonsense wisdom, which they fed to a group of subjects alongside real quotes that actually make sense (an example of the former: "This life is nothing short of an ennobling oasis of self-aware faith." What the fuck does that even mean?!) Over 300 participants were asked to rate the quotes on a scale of 1-5, classifying them as profound, mundane, or bullshit; they were also given traditional intelligence tests to determine cognitive thinking ability and personality type.
The researchers found that participants who had trouble distinguishing the profound from the meaningless were also more likely to be of lower intelligence. Similarly, those who glommed on to meaningless word vomit were also more likely to believe in conspiracies and paranormal phenomena.
By contrast, subjects who tested for a higher level of intelligence or were more likely to engage in reflective thinking were also more likely to sniff out meaningless, illogical crap. As the researchers put it: "Some people may have an uncritically open mind. As the idiom goes: 'It pays to keep an open mind, but not so open your brains fall out.'"
So, the next time you see someone share a random "inspirational" quote over some beautiful landscape, find comfort in the knowledge that the poster is probably intellectually inferior to you. But don't rub it in: just because you're smarter and more skeptical than your Facebook friends doesn't mean you have to be a dick about it.