Ovid (publius_ovidius) wrote,

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Leprechaun Sex

There are plenty of ways to take advantage of gullible people. Unfortunately, it appears that our society doesn't do much to give people the tools they need to filter information appropriately. If the information is worded poorly, it's tough to evaluate. For example, consider the bit of tripe about walking on water from the awful movie/documentary "What the Bleep Do We Know".

In one section, the speaker claims that any of us can walk on water. It's merely our doubt which makes us fail. Well, that's a pretty useless statement. If someone fails to walk on water, it's because they doubted. If they don't doubt and still fail to walk on water, we can still argue that they have hidden doubts. There is no way to disprove this claim because the person making the claim can smugly cross his arms and say "sorry, little Jimmy doubted. That's why he drowned."

If we accept this line of argument, I can now go on to say "anyone can make monkeys fly out of their ass if they simply don't doubt their ability to do so." I won't bother to elaborate. The logic is the same. You can follow it.

Another way to make people fall for something stupid is to appeal to their vanity, but give them any means of accepting it as the truth. For example, there was an interesting study published in the Journal of Clinical Psychology in 1977, entitled "Acceptance of general personality interpretations prior to and after receiving diagnostic feedback supposedly based on psychological, graphological, and astrological assessment procedures." (That's only a link to the citation. I can't find the paper on line.)

Whew! That's a long title and it's certainly not something I would have chosen. On the other hand, a catchier title such as "Getting people to swallow bullshit by covering it with astrology" would probably not have been accepted.

In this study, psychologists created a bogus psychological profile of traits that most people believe they possessed. People were asked to rate how accurate it was for themselves on a scale of 1 to 5 (with five being most accurate.) The first group of people were told it was a universal psychological profile. The average score was 3.2 -- definitely suggesting that people tended to agree with the traits. The second group of people were asked for their birthday and then told the the profile was based upon their sun sign. They were a bit more receptive and their average score was 3.76.

The last group of people was told that the profile was their personal horoscope. They scored the profile 4.38.

There was nothing different about the profiles and if people were using objective criteria then we should not have seen these results (to be fair, I confess to not knowing how the people were chosen, groups assigned, etc., since I have only read a summary.)

Where are people's filters? Why can't they seem to properly evaluate things? I hear homeopathists talk about "water memory", even though such a thing has never been demonstrated. I hear astrology buffs talk about gravitational influences, but the gravitation pull of the chair you're sitting on has a much greater affect on you then the gravitational pull of the moon (the math is pretty simple if you want to work it out.) This, unfortunately, reduces down to what I call the "leprechaun sex" problem. I don't want to hear your theories about how leprechauns fuck until you can prove to me that leprechauns exist.
Tags: pseudo-science
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