Are neoliberals more susceptible to bullshit?

Joanna Sterling, John T. Jost, Gordon Pennycook

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


We conducted additional analyses of Pennycook et al.’s (2015, Study 2) data to investigate the possibility that there would be ideological differences in “bullshit receptivity” that would be explained by individual differences in cognitive style and ability. As hypothesized, we observed that endorsement of neoliberal, free market ideology was significantly but modestly associated with bullshit receptivity. In addition, we observed a quadratic association, which indicated that ideological moderates were more susceptible to bullshit than ideological extremists. These relationships were explained, in part, by heuristic processing tendencies, faith in intuition, and lower verbal ability. Results are inconsistent with approaches suggesting that (a) there are no meaningful ideological differences in cognitive style or reasoning ability, (b) simplistic, certainty-oriented cognitive styles are generally associated with leftist (vs. rightist) economic preferences, or (c) simplistic, certainty-oriented cognitive styles are generally associated with extremist (vs. moderate) preferences. Theoretical and practical implications are briefly addressed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)352-360
Number of pages9
JournalJudgment and Decision Making
Issue number4
StatePublished - Jul 2016


  • Bullshit receptivity
  • Cognitive ability
  • Cognitive style
  • Neoliberalism
  • Political ideology

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Decision Sciences
  • Applied Psychology
  • Economics and Econometrics


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