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How to Spot Bullshit: My Journey and the Science Behind It

My friend and colleague, Vickie de Falco, recently told me I had an incredible gift for spotting bullshit.  Had no idea she even knew that about me but, then again, she’s very perceptive! 


There’s no doubt in my mind that I was born with a very low tolerance for bullshit!  I may not have had the language to identify it, but I’ve known the feeling since early childhood and could spot bullshit a mile away, even way back then!  Guess that’s why "The Emperor's New Clothes” always resonated.   


nancy mendelson

The Cambridge Dictionary tells us, “The Emperor’s New Clothes is

used to describe a situation in which most people praise or seem to believe something that is false or has no value, because they are afraid to go against the general opinion.”  Yep!   


And oh, the times I got into trouble for questioning something I knew was BS!  Had to learn early on to keep my thoughts to myself if I wanted to go play at recess. Sitting in the corner of the classroom could be a very lonely place on a sunny day! But even worse, there was no one I could talk to about it who understood.  Now THAT was lonely!


So, imagine my joy when I discovered a study on the National Library of Medicine website, titled: Bullshit-sensitivity Predicts Prosocial Behavior.  Get this:

"Seemingly impressive statements that are presented as meaningful or true but are actually vacuous (e.g. “Good health imparts reality to subtle creativity”) have been called pseudo-profound bullshit. Bullshit-statements are (a) constructed absent any concern for the truth and (b) do not consistently have any unambiguous meaning. Although bullshit has existed for centuries, academic interest in the philosophical analysis of bullshit, and empirical studies of bullshit are new phenomena."


nancy mendelson hertelier

Let me just say, I feel so redeemed and understood!!!  


There must be more of you out there who, like me, learned to pick and choose her “I call bullshit” battles or, if you could read my thought bubble, “are you effing kidding me with this bullshit?”  Usually accompanied by an eyeroll.  Ha…makes me think of when my friend Nassos and I would text one another during unusually BS-laden meetings: @@@@@@@@@@@@, used to symbolize massive eye rolling.


Let’s face it, we’re all going to drown in a sea of bullshit if we don’t help each other identify it. Take it from Jon Stewart…


The best defence against bullshit is vigilance. So if you smell something, say something.

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