Boys, the wealthy, & Canadians talk the most math-based BS


EXCERPT: The existence of what's colloquially known as "bullshit"—a combination of lies, exaggerations, and inaccuracies that makes it hard to figure out what the truth is—is familiar to all of us. Most of us have come across an individual so skilled in deploying it to advance their goals that we refer to them as "bullshit artists." [...] a group of social scientists (John Jerrim, Phil Parker, and Nikki Shure) have done a massive study that polled 40,000 school students to find out who bullshits and why. The researchers use the phrases "bullshit" and "bullshitters" throughout, so we do, too. [...] So how do you test for that? The three authors of a new working paper on the subject designed a simple test for bullshit and managed to get it inserted into a survey that ensured they had a massive study audience...

[...] Each country was given an overall bullshit score based on its take on the three fake subjects and controlled for things like actual mathematical achievement. Canada topped the list, followed closely by the United States. Australia and New Zealand followed, with England bringing up the back of the pack in terms of a tendency to bullshit. Ireland, Northern Ireland, and Scotland all ended up with negative scores. Although there are undoubtedly bullshitters in these three countries, apparently math isn't their preferred topic for exercising this artistry.

Data showed that boys in all of the countries are more likely to claim they've mastered a nonexistent skill. The same held true for people with higher socioeconomic status, who invariably engaged in some bullshitting. People at the lower end of the economic scale, by contrast, had negative BS scores in all of the countries examined.

Things aren't all bad for North Americans, though, as they're remarkably egalitarian in their bullshit. Both the gap between genders and the gap between low and high socioeconomic status were smallest in the US and Canada. The US was also unique in that there was no significant gap between immigrants and native-born bullshitters (in other countries, immigrants were more likely to claim they knew the nonexistent math). England, Ireland, and Scotland had the largest gender gaps; Scotland and New Zealand the largest gap based on economic status; and the European countries all clustered together with larger differences between native populations and immigrants.

Across all countries, bullshitters were more likely to have confidence in their own abilities. They were more likely to claim they could handle problem-solving challenges and rated their perseverance highly. Somewhat surprisingly, the students with higher bullshit scores were only marginally more likely to say they were more popular at school, though they were consistently more likely to say that things were going well there. Signs of teenage angst, like feeling lonely and not belonging, showed no correlation with tendency to bullshit... (MORE - details)

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