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The Life-Changing Science of Detecting Bullshit

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Expanding upon his viral TEDx Talk, psychology professor and social scientist John V. Petrocelli's The Life-Changing Science of Detecting Bullshit reveals the critical thinking habits you can develop to recognize and combat pervasive false information and delusional thinking that has become a common feature of everyday life. "This is the perfect moment for...the psychology Expanding upon his viral TEDx Talk, psychology professor and social scientist John V. Petrocelli's The Life-Changing Science of Detecting Bullshit reveals the critical thinking habits you can develop to recognize and combat pervasive false information and delusional thinking that has become a common feature of everyday life. "This is the perfect moment for...the psychology of detecting fake news in the world around us—and false beliefs about ourselves too.” —Adam Grant Bullshit is the foundation of contaminated thinking and bad decisions that leads to health consequences, financial losses, legal consequences, broken relationships, and wasted time and resources. No matter how smart we believe ourselves to be, we’re all susceptible to bullshit—and we all engage in it. While we may brush it off as harmless marketing sales speak or as humorous, embellished claims, it’s actually much more dangerous and insidious. It’s how Bernie Madoff successfully swindled billions of dollars from even the most experienced financial experts with his Ponzi scheme. It’s how the protocols of Mao Zedong’s Great Leap Forward resulted in the deaths of 36 million people from starvation. Presented as truths by authority figures and credentialed experts, bullshit appears legitimate, and we accept their words as gospel. If we don’t question the information we receive from bullshit artists to prove their thoughts and theories, we allow these falsehoods to take root in our memories and beliefs. This faulty data affects our decision making capabilities, sometimes resulting in regrettable life choices. But with a little dose of skepticism and a commitment to truth seeking, you can build your critical thinking and scientific reasoning skills to evaluate information, separate fact from fiction, and see through bullshitter spin. In The Life-Changing Science of Detecting Bullshit, experimental social psychologist John V. Petrocelli provides invaluable strategies not only to recognize and protect yourself from everyday bullshit, but to accept your own lack of knowledge about subjects and avoid engaging in bullshit just for societal conformity. With real world examples from people versed in bullshit who work in the used car, real estate, wine, and diamond industries, Petrocelli exposes the red-flag warning signs found in the anecdotal stories, emotional language, and buzzwords used by bullshitters that persuade our decisions. By using his critical thinking defensive tactics against those motivated by profit, we will also learn how to stop the toxic misinformation spread from the social media influencers, fake news, and op-eds that permeate our culture and call out bullshit whenever we see it.


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Expanding upon his viral TEDx Talk, psychology professor and social scientist John V. Petrocelli's The Life-Changing Science of Detecting Bullshit reveals the critical thinking habits you can develop to recognize and combat pervasive false information and delusional thinking that has become a common feature of everyday life. "This is the perfect moment for...the psychology Expanding upon his viral TEDx Talk, psychology professor and social scientist John V. Petrocelli's The Life-Changing Science of Detecting Bullshit reveals the critical thinking habits you can develop to recognize and combat pervasive false information and delusional thinking that has become a common feature of everyday life. "This is the perfect moment for...the psychology of detecting fake news in the world around us—and false beliefs about ourselves too.” —Adam Grant Bullshit is the foundation of contaminated thinking and bad decisions that leads to health consequences, financial losses, legal consequences, broken relationships, and wasted time and resources. No matter how smart we believe ourselves to be, we’re all susceptible to bullshit—and we all engage in it. While we may brush it off as harmless marketing sales speak or as humorous, embellished claims, it’s actually much more dangerous and insidious. It’s how Bernie Madoff successfully swindled billions of dollars from even the most experienced financial experts with his Ponzi scheme. It’s how the protocols of Mao Zedong’s Great Leap Forward resulted in the deaths of 36 million people from starvation. Presented as truths by authority figures and credentialed experts, bullshit appears legitimate, and we accept their words as gospel. If we don’t question the information we receive from bullshit artists to prove their thoughts and theories, we allow these falsehoods to take root in our memories and beliefs. This faulty data affects our decision making capabilities, sometimes resulting in regrettable life choices. But with a little dose of skepticism and a commitment to truth seeking, you can build your critical thinking and scientific reasoning skills to evaluate information, separate fact from fiction, and see through bullshitter spin. In The Life-Changing Science of Detecting Bullshit, experimental social psychologist John V. Petrocelli provides invaluable strategies not only to recognize and protect yourself from everyday bullshit, but to accept your own lack of knowledge about subjects and avoid engaging in bullshit just for societal conformity. With real world examples from people versed in bullshit who work in the used car, real estate, wine, and diamond industries, Petrocelli exposes the red-flag warning signs found in the anecdotal stories, emotional language, and buzzwords used by bullshitters that persuade our decisions. By using his critical thinking defensive tactics against those motivated by profit, we will also learn how to stop the toxic misinformation spread from the social media influencers, fake news, and op-eds that permeate our culture and call out bullshit whenever we see it.

30 review for The Life-Changing Science of Detecting Bullshit

  1. 5 out of 5

    Diane S ☔

    I can't think of a subject more needed, worth discussing than the one in the title. In the United States right now bullshit and those who believe every outlandish conspiracy theory thrown their way, are running rampant. Violence and the lack of concern for others is putting all at risk. So, how does this happen? Why do people believe things that leave those with any common sense, frustrated, shaking their heads. This book goes into some of these scenarios, people, in detail. Personality traits, I can't think of a subject more needed, worth discussing than the one in the title. In the United States right now bullshit and those who believe every outlandish conspiracy theory thrown their way, are running rampant. Violence and the lack of concern for others is putting all at risk. So, how does this happen? Why do people believe things that leave those with any common sense, frustrated, shaking their heads. This book goes into some of these scenarios, people, in detail. Personality traits, biases that make one a victim to these flagrant untruths. Political untruths, marketing tactics, cons, people feeling left out, wanting to belong to something, easily swayed, the list goes on and on. One needs to practice due diligence, fact check before one spreads these conspiracies, but most don't. This book tackles different scenarios, from the marketing of jewelry and wine, to the Madoff pyramid scheme. Interesting though maybe because I am a skeptic, I'm not easily sold, much here seems to me, like good old common sense. My hubby always says, common sense isn't so common anymore. Unfortunately those who could really use this book probably won't read, and if they did, they wouldn't believe. At books end, the author provides a list of fact checking sites. "In other words, one's susceptibility to being duped by bullshit is associated with an intuitive, less effortful, or careless thinking style." "Bullshit can create an equally deceptive cognitive illusion if it focuses our thinking on incomplete information or nothing's that are really not there." ARC from Netgalley

  2. 4 out of 5

    David Wineberg

    Everybody recognizes bullshit when they hear it. Or assuming they’re paying attention, they at least think they do. But psychologist John Petrocelli has gone much farther and deeper into the doodoo. In The Life-Changing Science of Detecting Bullshit, he has researched an exhaustive compendium of circumstances, stereotypes, job classes and ulterior motives that make life a minefield. BS is everywhere, all day long. Petrocelli teaches bullshit detection and has a bs detection lab at Wake Forest Uni Everybody recognizes bullshit when they hear it. Or assuming they’re paying attention, they at least think they do. But psychologist John Petrocelli has gone much farther and deeper into the doodoo. In The Life-Changing Science of Detecting Bullshit, he has researched an exhaustive compendium of circumstances, stereotypes, job classes and ulterior motives that make life a minefield. BS is everywhere, all day long. Petrocelli teaches bullshit detection and has a bs detection lab at Wake Forest University. Not the typical day job, but an endless one, as it seems one can never really get to the bottom of it all. Or even just away from it. Even Petrocelli himself is guilty of it. First off, one needs to be able to tell the difference between bs and lies. “The liar does whatever he can to hide the truth – to do it successfully, the liar distorts his portrayal of reality and tries to remember the lie. The bullshitter doesn’t have these burdens because most often, he actually believes his own bullshit. Think of how much easier it would be if you didn’t have the burden of knowing the truth or remembering that something is false. It wouldn’t feel like lying at all.” And in addition to bs and lying, there is also simply being wrong. Good luck sorting them out. Petrocelli spends a lot of seemingly joyful time calling out the bs of various hyper-wealthy celebrities. The pickins are easy here. Donald Trump, Deepak Chopra and Dr. Oz come in for special treatment. They have made fortunes, based on nothing real. Trump makes most of his money licensing his name which he has built over decades of bs in the media. Chopra has indecipherable bafflegab concepts which mean absolutely nothing in the English language but which sound deep. Petrocelli says there is “little difference in the perceived profundity of Deepak tweets and artificial Deepak quotes generated by an algorithm.” Dr. Oz shills for all kinds of products and bogus treatments that can’t withstand the light of day, but millions will buy into them on his sayso. Petrocelli has studied him and says less than half are backed by medical science. There are whole industries and careers that mandate bs. Petrocelli examines used car salesmen, jewelers, pharmaceutical reps and real estate agents, among others. Reading their strategies and tactics casts them in a whole new light. They are finely tuned into the dark art of bs. In marketing, an industry built entirely on bs, experts can make claims that skirt the truth. They use tools like framing, he says. They could say a product contains 20% fat, but how much better to claim it is “NOW 80% fat-free!” The result is billions of dollars spent on terrible products. The intersection of marketing and jewelry, Petrocelli says, is a pile of bs. Diamonds are not an “investment”. That is jeweler bullshit. Buyers will never make more when they sell later. The markup is so high that the wholesale price can never exceed the original retail price. Lab-made diamonds are the worst, with markups easily exceeding 1000%. He says buying a diamond at a pawnshop will get buyers the same quality on the genuine article, for a quarter of the price of something new. All the rest is bs. There are whole industries that propagate bs, like TED Talks that are presented in their endless variety without vetting or challenge. To stand out, speakers must lay it on thick. BS is so ingrained, he says, that “many of our memories, beliefs, attitudes and decisions are based on bullshit rather than evidence-based reasoning.” We have grown up believing the rock-solid truth of things that have no basis in fact. We insist our knowledge is unimpeachable, when we have no basis for making any claims at all. We also see it in internet facts, based on ungenuine photographs and made-up studies and headlines. But this is nothing new; it has been going on since people could talk. Any time someone wants to sell something to someone else, the bs rises to the top. It is an unfortunate truth, but bs is instantly and permanently valued over truth. Petrocelli has quotes going back to the Ancient Greeks bemoaning the power of bs. My favorite comes from Jonathan Swift just 300 years ago: “Falsehood flies, and truth comes limping after it.” We have only to look at Q-anon conspiracies, like Hillary Clinton running a child porn ring out the basement of a Washington DC pizzeria to see this in action. Sadly, people still believe it, despite the building having basement at all, and the pizzeria closing because of all the hassles. Society is geared up for it. Vitamin products by law are not required to have studies behind their claims. Diets need not show any proof. Miracle cures only require belief to be valid. Such is the power of bs. It is also a feature of being a social animal. People know innately it is better to say anything at all rather than nothing, in order to maintain membership in a group. No participation leads to being ignored and forgotten. So people will say anything to keep the conversation going, with themselves in it, Petrocelli says. So how do we protect ourselves? Unfortunately, it isn’t easy. Petrocelli provides endless lists of checkoffs that could clue us in to bs. He proposes all kinds of questions to ask that will shine a light on the bs spewing at us. Beware of explanations that begin with “There was a study that showed…” or “Some say that…” They mean the speaker is spreading the stuff. Social media claims – fugeddaboudit. Beating it boils down to critical thinking, which many are simply not capable of. They might be too trusting, too inexperienced, too naïve, too lazy or uncaring. So bs thrives. It rises in groups where there is no expert to call it out. It rises when one in the group is known to have similar opinions. It rises to fill blank spaces in conversation. There are endless opportunities for bs in our daily lives. Petrocelli is justifiably focused on his own field, psychology. He points to innumerable psych studies that are simply bogus and which float through the air of truth because no one will call the bs out, even, if not especially, their peer-reviewed journals. There are endless studies with faulty methodologies, whose conclusions become common knowledge around the world. And there are bogus health claims for innumerable products and services for which there may be no studies at all. They too become ingrained in society. Diets, skin creams and wellness fads all fit the bill. To give one example, Petrocelli calls out a fasting guru for all the insane claims to health and wellbeing that intermittent fasting supposedly confers: “I feel I have the right to call bullshit on (Cynthia) Thurlow because the two hours I spent fact-checking her claims was probably more time than she spent seeking the truth about intermittent fasting,” he says. But she has leveraged a TED Talk into books and media appearances as if she has hit on an unknown secret of the ages. That there is simply no truth to it is apparently irrelevant. Let me pause to say Petrocelli is not the most economical of writers. He seems to take forever to make a point, and his points are mostly so straightforward they need no coddling. He is codifying a bunch of miscellany we all know about already. The puffery around it, if I may, is bs. But what is news is that it is so pervasive, pernicious, and such a permanent fixture of human life that we need to beware of it every moment of the day. So readers must go on, exploring where else they never considered bs to be lying in wait. And for all that, Petrocelli is just as capable of spreading bs himself. He uses the hoary tale of Stanley Milgram’s much publicized and iconic study in the early sixties, where he supposedly showed that people will bend to authority, no matter what they are asked to do. Petrocelli calls it being Bullible. If someone appears to be in charge, people will defer to that office. Or so he insists the study showed. Milgram posted subjects at consoles where they had to zap a person with high voltage if they answered a question incorrectly. As the game progressed, the voltage got higher and higher - into killer territory. The monitors in lab coats urged them on, telling the subjects they “must continue” and that they “have no choice.” This study has been used to show how autocrats manipulate people, and how everyone defers to the supposed expert. Even Petrocelli says: “participants tended to obey the authority figure” of the man in white commanding them to torture their victim. Sorry, but that’s bs. The truth is that well over half the subjects flat out refused to zap the responders when the voltage seemed to be too painful. They defied the men in labcoats and quit the study. Worse, half the remaining subjects, who continued zapping away, said they did it because they knew it was all bogus and no one was being zapped with anything at all. This means nearly 80% of the subjects either did not fall for the setup or walked out with a clear conscience. In other words, what everyone “knows” about the Milgram study, and have been saying is gospel truth for decades, is bs. Including our author. So the whole premise of critical thinking and checklists to catch bs in the making, I’m afraid, is bs. If bs can catch this author, it can overcome anyone. Nonetheless, the book is definitely entertaining, educational, and helpful. But life is just too complicated for everyone to catch all the bs. That much is truth you can take to the bank. David Wineberg

  3. 4 out of 5

    Ryan Boissonneault

    If, like most people, you think you are immune to bullshit, consider the case of Stephen Greenspan, the clinical professor of psychiatry specializing in social incompetence and gullibility that fell for one of the largest financial scams in history by investing in Bernie Madoff’s long-running Ponzi scheme. Greenspan published nearly 100 scientific papers and wrote an influential book titled The Annals of Gullibility, yet in the end, he proved to be just as susceptible to bullshit as the rest of If, like most people, you think you are immune to bullshit, consider the case of Stephen Greenspan, the clinical professor of psychiatry specializing in social incompetence and gullibility that fell for one of the largest financial scams in history by investing in Bernie Madoff’s long-running Ponzi scheme. Greenspan published nearly 100 scientific papers and wrote an influential book titled The Annals of Gullibility, yet in the end, he proved to be just as susceptible to bullshit as the rest of us. And so we have lesson number one: you probably need to read this book. While we’re not all equally susceptible to bullshit—or, as Petrocelli would say, we’re not equally “bullible”—we all have blind spots and could stand to benefit from a refresher on the tools and techniques of bullshit detection. You’ll learn the psychology of bullshit, the difference between bullshit and lying, why people bullshit and are susceptible to bullshit, the social costs of bullshit, and how to develop your skills as a bullshit detector. Bullshit, of course, is not the same as lying. Whereas the liar knows the truth and claims the opposite, the bullshitter not only doesn’t know the truth, but also doesn’t particularly care. This general disregard for truth and the truth-seeking process is the trademark of the bullshitter, who will confidently proclaim knowledge on topics they know little to nothing about. While we generally treat lying as the greater social offense, bullshitting can in fact create greater social damage, not only by spreading misinformation, but by establishing cultural norms of superficial thinking and indifference to evidence. In other words, bullshit is no joke. Petrocelli shows the reader how bullshit killed 36 million Chinese citizens during the Great Leap Forward, deceives parents into thinking their autistic children can communicate with them through “facilitated communication,” and harms and kills millions of people each year by promoting alternative medicines and anti-vaccination campaigns. Similar mishandlings of COVID-19 based on bullshit theories with no scientific backing have likewise killed droves of people. That’s why I don’t think it’s an exaggeration when Petrocelli claims that calling people on their bullshit—and demanding that we all adhere to better standards of thinking and evidence—is perhaps the most important social issue of our time. You may wonder, though, if the book can really make any kind of difference. If Petrocelli is right to claim that bullshitters are indifferent to truth and evidence, then what is a book about better thinking based on truth and evidence actually supposed to accomplish? This is a fair point, but remember that we are all susceptible to bullshit, even those of us who are not indifferent to truth and evidence. There are also those of us who believe that “everyone is entitled to their opinion” and therefore fail to call out harmful bullshit when we should, creating the cultural norms that allow bullshitters to flourish. But bullshitters are only as effective as their victims are gullible or unwilling to speak up. As we all develop our skills in bullshit detection—and raise our collective standards of critical thinking—we can create a world where bullshitters have far less sway than they currently do.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Marsha

    A quick and entertaining read that should help many people become more aware of how they've arrived at their own decisions and attitudes and how they can logically dissect that process so they're less susceptible to bullshit. The first part of the book consisted of highly readable anecdotes to illuminate his various points. The second half was more of a roundup and reiteration of his points. While I enjoyed this book, I docked one star because of the author's own bullshit. The anecdotes he used A quick and entertaining read that should help many people become more aware of how they've arrived at their own decisions and attitudes and how they can logically dissect that process so they're less susceptible to bullshit. The first part of the book consisted of highly readable anecdotes to illuminate his various points. The second half was more of a roundup and reiteration of his points. While I enjoyed this book, I docked one star because of the author's own bullshit. The anecdotes he used in the first half were mere padding. He could have used more original examples. Anyone who has taken a basic psychology course or watched a documentary on the art of persuasion will be familiar with most that he cites. That's a small criticism though, because the second half of the book makes up for it.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Lisa Konet

    get the point of this book that it gets you to recognize all lies from TV, to friends, family and other sources making you impenetrable to "bullshit." There was an overabundance of swearing which I usually do not mind but was off in this book when it is trying to be psychology/self-help book; it is not, Some parts were good but some parts were over-done/over the top absurd. All in all, a waste of my time when I can be reading something else on my ever growing TBR list. Cannot recommend. Thanks to get the point of this book that it gets you to recognize all lies from TV, to friends, family and other sources making you impenetrable to "bullshit." There was an overabundance of swearing which I usually do not mind but was off in this book when it is trying to be psychology/self-help book; it is not, Some parts were good but some parts were over-done/over the top absurd. All in all, a waste of my time when I can be reading something else on my ever growing TBR list. Cannot recommend. Thanks to Netgalley, John V Petrocelli and St Martin's Press for an ARC in exchange for an honest review. Available: 7/27/21

  6. 4 out of 5

    Andrea

    Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for an ARC. John Petrocelli is a social psychologist at Wake Forest University who specializes in, according to the WFU website, "experimental social cognition and judgement and decision making." In other words, Dr. Petrocelli is an expert on the art and science of detecting bullshit. This short book describes how susceptible we are to bullshit (very) and lays out how Dr. Petrocelli's recommendations for detecting it yourself. Unlike your average TED talk t Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for an ARC. John Petrocelli is a social psychologist at Wake Forest University who specializes in, according to the WFU website, "experimental social cognition and judgement and decision making." In other words, Dr. Petrocelli is an expert on the art and science of detecting bullshit. This short book describes how susceptible we are to bullshit (very) and lays out how Dr. Petrocelli's recommendations for detecting it yourself. Unlike your average TED talk that suggests a simple action that will revolutionize your life (fasting to induce autophagy!), Dr. Petrocelli doesn't have a quick fix to offer (though note that the author does have a TED talk). Instead, the antidote requires critical thinking. I found the systematic process and list of sample questions for evaluating prospective bullshit quite helpful and definitely plan to review it in the future. The book is fairly nonpartisan in nature, quite an achievement given the subject matter. This shows a careful hand at work. I'm tempted to buy copies for my more gullible relatives. My only quibble is that several old chestnuts about social psychology are trotted out for illustrative purposes, namely Philip Zimbardo's Stanford prison experiment, and there's no mention of how much bullshit was involved in this study. Nullis in verba.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Brandon Westlake

    I have read On Bullshit, but Petrocelli takes the idea down a different route. Instead of a philosophical work, this one is more applicable to understanding and guarding against bullshit. There were some really interesting anecdotes throughout the text that made me often stop and think about, even though I wouldn't have admitted it, I have fallen prey to bullshit more than I would like to say. The second half of the book is where I think one can apply the rules the best. The questions and guides I have read On Bullshit, but Petrocelli takes the idea down a different route. Instead of a philosophical work, this one is more applicable to understanding and guarding against bullshit. There were some really interesting anecdotes throughout the text that made me often stop and think about, even though I wouldn't have admitted it, I have fallen prey to bullshit more than I would like to say. The second half of the book is where I think one can apply the rules the best. The questions and guides in the last couple of chapters are great reference questions about any source of information. The book's political views might turn people away, but in the end, it is those people who have stayed wallowing in the cow pie

  8. 5 out of 5

    Shawn

    A fun and well- written book advocating and explaining the need to greater reliance on critical thinking and evidence seeking. Petrocelli does research from the Wake Forest "Bullshit Laboratory" (yes, I'm jealous) and wow this book seemingly as a textbook for how to help people understand when they someone is using Bullshit on them (from lying) and how they can get better at catching it and avoiding using it themselves. Were I still teaching, I would want this to be required reading for our scie A fun and well- written book advocating and explaining the need to greater reliance on critical thinking and evidence seeking. Petrocelli does research from the Wake Forest "Bullshit Laboratory" (yes, I'm jealous) and wow this book seemingly as a textbook for how to help people understand when they someone is using Bullshit on them (from lying) and how they can get better at catching it and avoiding using it themselves. Were I still teaching, I would want this to be required reading for our science department (or maybe the whole school) to enable us to work critical thinking techniques into every class. One portion that especially jumped out at me was asking "how" instead of "why" questions in order to elicit more evidence based thinking about a topic. Because of this, I would recommend this for anyone who actually cares about understanding the world through the lens of facts and evidence and I would wish that would include everyone. Thank you to the publisher and Netgalley for giving me the chance to read an advance copy of this book and to Dr. Petrocelli for his work.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Cav

    "The truth may be puzzling. It may take some work to grapple with. It may be counterintuitive. It may contradict deeply held prejudices. It may not be consonant with what we desperately want to be true. But our preferences do not determine what’s true..." —Carl Sagan The Life-Changing Science of Detecting Bullshit was a great read. The author drops the above quote at the start of the book. Author John V. Petrocelli is a Professor of Psychology at Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem, North Carol "The truth may be puzzling. It may take some work to grapple with. It may be counterintuitive. It may contradict deeply held prejudices. It may not be consonant with what we desperately want to be true. But our preferences do not determine what’s true..." —Carl Sagan The Life-Changing Science of Detecting Bullshit was a great read. The author drops the above quote at the start of the book. Author John V. Petrocelli is a Professor of Psychology at Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. He writes of himself: "I am a social psychologist and my research involves experimental social cognition and judgment and decision making. My specific research interests include attitude strength and persuasion, bullshitting, counterfactual thinking and metacognition." John V. Petrocelli: The book opens with a bang, as Petrocelli delivers a high-energy intro. He recounts the story of 2017 NBA All-Star Game superstar Kyrie Irving advocating for people to do "research" and see that the earth is flat. Petrocelli mentions a few other common misconceptions: "Kyrie isn’t alone in believing something that isn’t true. Many people still believe you can see the Great Wall of China from the Moon, despite the fact that Apollo astronauts confirmed that you cannot.8 Many people believe that one human year is equivalent to seven dog years, although dog age actually depends on the size and breed of the dog (after 7 years, a Saint Bernard is 54, but a Maltese is only 44).9 It’s often said that you lose your body heat fastest through your head, despite the fact experts have shown humans to be just as cold if they went without wearing pants as if they went without wearing a hat.10 People continue to insist that giving children sugar makes them hyperactive, despite the fact that virtually all tests show that sugar does not cause hyperactivity.11 And many people still believe that vitamin C is an effective treatment for a cold, despite the fact that experts have demonstrated little to no evidence that this is true." Petrocelli has a natural and easy writing style, that effectively holds the reader's attention, and has the effect of making the book very engaging and readable. Points awarded for this. My reviews are always very heavily weighted on how engaging and interesting an author's prose is, and thankfully Petrocelli doesn't disappoint here. Petrocelli introduces a humorous "Bullshit Flies Index" in the first chapter, ranking bullshit according to how damaging it is: He drops this famous thought experiment, that examines people's faulty thought processes: "The two general styles of thinking are intuitive and reflective thinking. To understand the distinction, try answering this question: A bat and a ball cost $1.10 in total. The bat costs $1.00 more than the ball. How much does the ball cost? If you are like most people, your first answer was 10 cents. Although that’s the most common answer, it is wrong. If the ball cost 10 cents, then the bat would cost $1.00, and the bat would thereby cost only 90 cents more than the ball. The bat costs $1.00 more than the ball, and the only way for that to be the case is for the bat to cost $1.05 and the ball to cost 5 cents. What makes this problem difficult is that the pull of the intuitive and incorrect response is significantly stronger because it comes to mind more quickly than the correct response. In order to arrive at the correct response, you must fight against the intuitive pull and stop to reflect for a few moments—it requires reflective thinking..." Another great quote, about those who excessively bullshit: "High-propensity bullshitters are remarkably easy to spot. They are the type of people often found evangelizing and proselytizing about their beliefs to anyone willing to listen. They do this because convincing otherwise rational people to agree with their opinions reduces any psychological discomfort they may feel for believing their own bullshit. Because relying on evidence to make decisions does not appeal to them, high-propensity bullshitters tend to show signs of irritation when asked to provide reasons for their beliefs..." Some more of what is covered here includes: • Professional wine reviewers; price as a rule of thumb. • Personality tests; the cottages industries surrounding them. The "Big 5" Personality traits. • Mao Zedong's disastrous "Great Leap Forward." The largest man-made catastrophe in history, it resulted in millions of famine deaths. His "Four Pests Campaign" went after four nuisance pests; rats, flies, mosquitoes, and sparrows. The mosquitos responsible for malaria, the rodents that spread the plague, the pervasive airborne flies, and the sparrows—specifically the Eurasian tree sparrow—which ate grain seed and fruit. • Bernie Madoff and Ponzi schemes. • Stanley Milgram's famous social compliance experiments. • Solomon Asch's Conformity Experiments. • Dr. Mehmet Oz. • The Dunning–Kruger effect. • Paid posts by social media influencers. • "Facilitated communication" for autistic children. • Deepak Chopra; pseudo profundity, "therapeutic touch." • TED Talks, Cynthia Thurlow • A bit of "Critical thinking 101." • The artificially-inflated value of diamonds. • Dowsing. • The fake ADE 651 bomb detector. I did find a small point of contention here. He takes a shot at Cynthia Thurlow’s TEDx Talk, titled Intermittent Fasting: Transformational Technique, casting doubt on the health benefits of fasting and intermittent fasting. The Ph.D. biochemist, Rhonda Patrick has compiled quite a lot of research on this, which, along with many other fitness and health-related topics, can be found on her site, foundmyfitness.com. She says this, and posts links to the data: "...As such, time-restricted eating may trigger some beneficial health effects, such as reduced fat mass, increased lean muscle mass, reduced inflammation, improved heart function with age, increased mitochondrial volume, ketone body production, improved repair processes, and enhanced aerobic endurance." ************************* I enjoyed The Life-Changing Science of Detecting Bullshit. Petrocelli presents the material here in an effective and interesting manner. Although most of what he covered here was not new to me, those who are not well-versed in social psychology will no doubt find this content extremely interesting and informative. I would recommend this one to anyone interested. 5 stars.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Patricia

    This subject matter is much deeper than I had expected. It is not my preferred genre to read, but it is worth reading since we have an abundance of misinformation in today's world. The author is a college professor who has devoted a substantial amount of time to this study. I did not fully grasp everything that he said because, frankly, I tried to absorb too much too quickly. I would probably do better if I were to take one of his classes and learn everything gradually. Still, the author succeed This subject matter is much deeper than I had expected. It is not my preferred genre to read, but it is worth reading since we have an abundance of misinformation in today's world. The author is a college professor who has devoted a substantial amount of time to this study. I did not fully grasp everything that he said because, frankly, I tried to absorb too much too quickly. I would probably do better if I were to take one of his classes and learn everything gradually. Still, the author succeeded in convincing me that I have been duped much more than I had ever realized. I will endeavor to continue learning and questioning my perceptions.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Chris Boutté

    I have no clue how I didn’t hear about this book or the work of John V. Petrocelli. This book is fantastic, and I binged it within a day of it being launched. There are a lot of books out there about being a better thinker and decision-maker, and I’ve read a ton of them. I can honestly say that this book stands out for a wide range of reasons, and I hope it gets the recognition it deserves. The author is a social psychologist and researcher, and there are a ton of studies in this book that I had I have no clue how I didn’t hear about this book or the work of John V. Petrocelli. This book is fantastic, and I binged it within a day of it being launched. There are a lot of books out there about being a better thinker and decision-maker, and I’ve read a ton of them. I can honestly say that this book stands out for a wide range of reasons, and I hope it gets the recognition it deserves. The author is a social psychologist and researcher, and there are a ton of studies in this book that I hadn’t heard of as well as studies that John and his team have done. In this book, you’ll learn what bullshit is, why people do it, and how to spot it. I mainly enjoy these books to remind myself of the tools needed to be skeptical of misinformation, but John covered way more than that. By the time you finish the book, you’ll know how to spot bullshit whether you’re reading or watching the news, buying a used car, or just talking to a friend. Also, I listened to the audiobook version of this, and the narrator was perfect for the book. I usually don’t pay much attention to narrators of non-fiction, but as an audio listener, I really enjoyed this one.

  12. 5 out of 5

    shoe

    Ha. This book unleashes it's own form of bs. Proceed with caution. Ha. This book unleashes it's own form of bs. Proceed with caution.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Susan

    If only this book had been published prior to the 2016 presidential election. So much could have been saved--especially hundreds of thousands of American lives. Author John V. Petrocelli explains the difference between outright lying and bullshitting, gives advice on avoiding falling for bullshit, provides examples of widely accepted bullshit, and offers pointers on analyzing information to determine its accuracy. It's amusing and novel to have a PhD take on the subject of "bullshit"; it almost If only this book had been published prior to the 2016 presidential election. So much could have been saved--especially hundreds of thousands of American lives. Author John V. Petrocelli explains the difference between outright lying and bullshitting, gives advice on avoiding falling for bullshit, provides examples of widely accepted bullshit, and offers pointers on analyzing information to determine its accuracy. It's amusing and novel to have a PhD take on the subject of "bullshit"; it almost seems as if a more scientific term should be created for this all-too-prevalent phenomenon. The people who most need to read this book probably will not, and that's the real problem. #TheLifeChangingScienceofDetectingBullshit

  14. 5 out of 5

    May

    This book is very informative. It gives many great examples of lies and misinformation and how to recognize them. The author really knows what he is talking about and he presents it in a easy to understand and non-pendant manner. A very interesting and educational book. Thanks to the publisher for providing an ARC.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Yehmehneh

    meh

  16. 5 out of 5

    Michele Pfrogner

    "Operate from the reality that people are often wrong--even scientists--and you will naturally and consistently be asking questions (174-175). Following the author's advice, I have a few questions to ask him: Would you have written this book if Donald Trump had not been elected President? How did you select the presidential quotes/actions anecdotes for inclusion in your book? What was your decision-making process citing McEnany, but not Psaki? Where is the footnote on page 185 ("greatest employment "Operate from the reality that people are often wrong--even scientists--and you will naturally and consistently be asking questions (174-175). Following the author's advice, I have a few questions to ask him: Would you have written this book if Donald Trump had not been elected President? How did you select the presidential quotes/actions anecdotes for inclusion in your book? What was your decision-making process citing McEnany, but not Psaki? Where is the footnote on page 185 ("greatest employment rate in history")? Was there a reason you did not include "actress" and anti-vaxxer Jennie McCarthy during your discussion of autism? Since so many FB users employ BS in their profiles, is there a reason you excluded social media from your discussion? This is not a light "summer" read (many examples of scientific studies), but still an interesting one. I would have rated the book higher if the author had presented a more balanced example of Republican/Democrat BS.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Carolyn Amate

    Entertaining and very interesting read as how to recognize bullshit when presented to you. Examples of where in society bullshit is used in ads to sell products or promote a person for a political party. It was an fun book to read an did enjoy it. Thank you Netgalley and St Martin's Press for the advanced copy in exchange for my honest review #TheLifeChangingScienceOfDetectingBullshit Entertaining and very interesting read as how to recognize bullshit when presented to you. Examples of where in society bullshit is used in ads to sell products or promote a person for a political party. It was an fun book to read an did enjoy it. Thank you Netgalley and St Martin's Press for the advanced copy in exchange for my honest review #TheLifeChangingScienceOfDetectingBullshit

  18. 5 out of 5

    Lauren Geier

    Have you seen the social media prompts that ask you to poorly explain what you do professionally? How many therapists would argue that this book title could work for that prompt? Haha! There are certainly those clients, certainly those days. Right!? In all sincerity, this book is a great choice for therapists to read for the purpose of professional development. Author John V. Petrocelli, expanded upon his TEDx talk of the same name in this book that presents tangible skills that can be utilized Have you seen the social media prompts that ask you to poorly explain what you do professionally? How many therapists would argue that this book title could work for that prompt? Haha! There are certainly those clients, certainly those days. Right!? In all sincerity, this book is a great choice for therapists to read for the purpose of professional development. Author John V. Petrocelli, expanded upon his TEDx talk of the same name in this book that presents tangible skills that can be utilized to reduce one’s vulnerability to misinformation and improve one’s critical thinking skills. (*anyone else wishing they could force entire segments of the country to read this...sigh…) The social-scientist in me found this book incredibly timely and enlightening. Petrocelli, an experimental social psychologist at Wake Forest, does not hold back! He tackles “fake news”, the social media influencer phenomenon, and multiple prominent figures we know from politics and pop culture. In addition to the social connections, this book is also applicable to the work we do. “Bullshit,” manipulation, deception, and exaggeration are all defense mechanisms. Petrocelli’s strategies and insights will absolutely aid you in not only detecting when clients are feeding you a line, but also help the client learn to step out from under the comfort of defensiveness and begin to practice more authenticity. I enjoyed this book so much, in fact, that I broke one of my own rules by not marking it “read” on my reading log because I feel like I need a second read to absorb and process the information more fully. As always, I’m grateful to the publisher and NetGalley for providing an advanced digital copy in exchange for an honest review. The words and opinions are all my own.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Nancy

    Strategies for Detecting Bullshit Detecting bullshit is an important strategy for our time. Facebook, Twitter, major media, and television personalities all engage in some form of bullshit as do jewelers, car salesmen, and diet gurus. Arguments from authority are one way of persuading people to your point of view whether the authorities are correct or slanted. The book is divided into two parts. The first part is anecdotal stories illustrating bullshit by personalities such as Deepak Chopra, Dona Strategies for Detecting Bullshit Detecting bullshit is an important strategy for our time. Facebook, Twitter, major media, and television personalities all engage in some form of bullshit as do jewelers, car salesmen, and diet gurus. Arguments from authority are one way of persuading people to your point of view whether the authorities are correct or slanted. The book is divided into two parts. The first part is anecdotal stories illustrating bullshit by personalities such as Deepak Chopra, Donald Trump, and others. It is very important when so much information is floating around to have a way to do critical thinking to separate what’s real from what’s being hyped. The second half of the book, and in my view the most interesting, presents strategies and checklists for detecting bullshit. While not a prefect solution, it does give you a place to start and encourages you to sharpen your faculties to get a better handle on the truth. I particularly liked his suggestion of asking questions that require evidence based replies. Bullshitters make things sound wonderful, but they slide over what their pronouncements are really based on. I recommend this book if you want to develop or bush up your skills in critical thinking for getting closer to the truth. I received this book from St. Martin’s Press for this review.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Ashley

    There were some interesting anecdotes about people spewing bullshit and those getting duped by it (though I as familiar with most of them) but the general tone of the book was occasionally off-putting. I generally agreed with the advice on how to think more critically but that also meant none of it was helpful to me. I wished the book was less American focused. I listened on audio so I can't confirm but I think the only non-American bullshit example was about China's Great Leap Forward and, whil There were some interesting anecdotes about people spewing bullshit and those getting duped by it (though I as familiar with most of them) but the general tone of the book was occasionally off-putting. I generally agreed with the advice on how to think more critically but that also meant none of it was helpful to me. I wished the book was less American focused. I listened on audio so I can't confirm but I think the only non-American bullshit example was about China's Great Leap Forward and, while I know little about the topic, I thought it was handled in a brazen and unnuanced manner. I worry this book may be preaching to the choir. I'm not certain how many people would bother to pick this book up if they didn't at least value critical thinking somewhat and then some of those would be put off with the frequent swearing or by the American politics included. Now, there's no doubt that Trump is a wellspring of bullshit but it's almost low-hanging fruit. Considering he does later say that you're unlikely to change people's minds by called them dumb the smugness contained within this book is bound to make many put it down and especially those that need it most.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Russ

    Meh. I think his anecdotes suck and I'm not sure if I agree with his differences between bullshit and lies. He seems to rehash a lot of the ideas from the better book, Mindware by Richard Nisbett. Except he adds bullshit on every page. Besides, what is wrong with bullshit? We are social animals and storytellers. Part of storytelling is bullshitting or rather embellishing in order to drive home a point. I think the lack of critical thinking is the issue, not the storytelling. If you've never read Meh. I think his anecdotes suck and I'm not sure if I agree with his differences between bullshit and lies. He seems to rehash a lot of the ideas from the better book, Mindware by Richard Nisbett. Except he adds bullshit on every page. Besides, what is wrong with bullshit? We are social animals and storytellers. Part of storytelling is bullshitting or rather embellishing in order to drive home a point. I think the lack of critical thinking is the issue, not the storytelling. If you've never read a book about critical thinking or persuasion, you might find this book's tools and techniques useful.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Daniel

    Another edition in the continually growing trend of books promoting information literacy. As others have noted, the overuse of cussing seemed unnecessary, and this is coming from someone who probably uses too many of those words in his own vocabulary. One redeeming factor of the book is Petrocelli speaking from a position of authority. While many other information literacy books are written by those without advanced degrees in the processes of human thought, Petrocelli is a professor of psycholo Another edition in the continually growing trend of books promoting information literacy. As others have noted, the overuse of cussing seemed unnecessary, and this is coming from someone who probably uses too many of those words in his own vocabulary. One redeeming factor of the book is Petrocelli speaking from a position of authority. While many other information literacy books are written by those without advanced degrees in the processes of human thought, Petrocelli is a professor of psychology at a prestigious school and has devoted much of his professional career to studying the ways in which humans bullshit.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Z.S

    this get only 4 out of 5 because the book starts ok, but peters out in the final portion. In addition, the author has to throw in a couple of his progressive infomercials (EG gun control). These liberals are as obsessive-compulsive about their ideology as the crank who cannot resist opening the trenchcoat in the subway to expose himself: what a shame. This said, the book is interesting.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Kate Grace

    I appreciate this book as a stretch for thinking! My favorite parts help with application & strategies, including critical thinking questions to ask. An interesting read, especially going into the 2021-2022 school year. The book just swings a little too widely in its tone for me. Thanks to John V. Petrocelli, St. Martin’s Press & Goodreads Giveaways for my copy.

  25. 5 out of 5

    golightly23

    Nothing earth shattering unless you aren't use to thinking about things critically. There were some funny anecdotes and helped me to better understand how Bullshit is voraciously consumed at times. Glad it is over. Nothing earth shattering unless you aren't use to thinking about things critically. There were some funny anecdotes and helped me to better understand how Bullshit is voraciously consumed at times. Glad it is over.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Liz

    I received this in a first reads giveaway. I didn't quite understand the point of this book. It tells you a lot about how to identify bullshit but it drags quite a bit and doesn't have the meat to make the length of the book necessary. I received this in a first reads giveaway. I didn't quite understand the point of this book. It tells you a lot about how to identify bullshit but it drags quite a bit and doesn't have the meat to make the length of the book necessary.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Emanuele Gemelli

    Interesting analysis about how to deal with BS in our contemporary life. Although a bit shallow here and there, just to capture readers, I found some useful tips that can be used during my normal daily life.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Amelia Kow

    3.5

  29. 4 out of 5

    Lee

    Very very topical for 2021. Informative, well written, entertaining.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Reading with Robson

    Guy was itching to insert his own political beliefs around every corner.

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