The Ig Nobel Prizes for Improbable Research 2016

Out of the Ordinary

On the reception and detection of pseudo-profound bullshit

Pennycook G, Cheyne JA, Barr N, et al. Judgment and Decision Making, 2015. 10(6):549–563

In the abstract, the authors outline the focus of the article -pseudo-profound bullshit, which consists of seemingly impressive assertions that are presented as true and meaningful but are actually vacuous.

They gave participants  bullshit statements consisting of buzzwords randomly organised into statements with syntactic structure but

no discernible meaning (e.g., “Wholeness quiets infinite phenomena”). Across multiple studies, the propensity to judge bull-shit statements as profound was associated with a variety of conceptually relevant variables (e.g., intuitive cognitive style, supernatural belief). Parallel associations were less evident among profundity judgments for more conventionally profound (e.g., “A wet person does not fear the rain”) or mundane (e.g., “Newborn babies require constant attention”) statements.

The authors suggest that these results support the idea that some people are more receptive to this type of bullshit and that detecting it is not merely a matter of indiscriminate scepticism but rather a discernment of deceptive vagueness in otherwise impressive sounding claims. Andthat a bias toward accepting statements as true may be an important component of pseudo-profound bullshit receptivity.

Perceived size and perceived distance of targets viewed from between the legs: Evidence for proprioceptive theory

Higashiyma A, Adachi K. Vision Research. 2006. 46(23):3961-3976

In this study, using three comparisons, perceived size and perceived distance of targets seen from between the legs were investigated. Five targets, varying from 32 to 163 cm in height, were presented at viewing distances of 2.5–45 m, and a total of 90 observers verbally judged the perceived size and perceived distance of each target.

In comparison 1, 15 observers inverted their heads upside down and saw the targets between their own legs; another 15 observers viewed them while being erect on the ground.

The results showed that inverting the head lowered the degree of size constancy and compressed the scale for distance. To examine whether these results were due to an inversion of retinal-image or body orientation, comparisons 2 and 3 were performed. In comparison 2, 15 observers stood upright and saw the targets with prism goggles that rotated the visual field 180°, while other 15 observers stood upright, but viewed the targets with a hollow frame lacking the prisms.

The results showed that, in both goggle conditions, size constancy prevailed and perceived distance was a linear function of physical distance. In comparison 3, 15 observers wore the 180° rotation goggles and viewed the targets by bending their heads forwardly, and the other 15 observers viewed them while wearing hollow goggles and lying on the belly. The results showed a low degree of size constancy and compressed the scale for distance.

Therefore, it is suggested that perceived size and perceived distance are affected by an inversion of body orientation, not of retinal image orientation. When path analysis and partial correlation analysis were applied to the whole data, perceived size was found to be independent of perceived distance. These results supported the direct perception model, rather than the apparent distance model.

No, I didn't get it either!