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Why Do So Many People Believe Donald Trump?

BS DetectorGOP primary candidate Carly Fiorina offered the Washington Post the most succinct analysis of Donald Trump’s campaign behavior: “This is the pattern, isn’t it? The pattern is — he says something insulting, offensive and outrageous; the media pays attention; then he claims we all misunderstood him.”

By “we” Fiorina probably meant members of the press and other smart, analytical people who listen closely, pay attention and maintain a healthy skepticism. That is as opposed to less educated, non-analytical, more emotional people who believe in angels and American exceptionalism who don’t misunderstand Trump, but instead take his every outrageous declaration as true, sincerely delivered and above argument.

A recent study titled “On the reception and detection of pseudo-profound bullshit,” published in Judgment and Decision Making 2015 by Gordon Pennycook, James Allan Cheyne, Nathaniel Barr, Derek J. Koehler, & Jonathan A. Fugelsang, may offer some insight into why people believe what Trump says. The study focused on “pseudo-profound bullshit, which consists of seemingly impressive assertions that are presented as true and meaningful but are actually vacuous.”

Before delving into the study itself and its results, let’s consider what Donald Trump has said during the current campaign. Here’s a sampling:

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