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We live in an age that might someday be seen as the most absurd in human history. On one hand, every educated person knows that the physical structure of the human brain controls what people think and do. At the same time, the vast majority of humans also believe brains are part magic. We give names to the magic part of our brain such as mind, soul, spirit, and free will. The most common view that educated people hold about the brain is that its physical structures give us some tendencies and biases but we can use the magic part - the "mind" - to override all of that.

Recently scientists have discovered the area in your brain that controls your gullibility. It's the ventromedial area of the prefrontal cortex. When it's underdeveloped, as in kids, or degraded as in the elderly, the result is more gullibility.

Now we know which part of the brain makes people think they are part meat and part magic. If the ventromedial area of the prefrontal cortex is suboptimal, you'll believe in horoscopes, ghosts, devils, conspiracy theories, and whatever your favorite politician is saying.

I'm guessing we're already at or near the point at which scientists can measure a normal adult's level of gullibility. I'm sure there's some way to devise gullibility tests in the lab. And it looks as if we might someday be able to do a brain scan and see how active the ventromedial area of the prefrontal cortex is while a subject is contemplating certain hard-to-believe topics. Imagine how our ability to quantify gullibility could affect politics.

How long will it be before pollsters can show their results filtered by gullibility? I'd like to see the opinions of the gullible compared to the opinions of the people who have robust and fully functioning prefrontal cortexes. Even better, the first filter would test for knowledge on a topic, a second filter would test for general intelligence, and a third would test for gullibility. I'd only care about the opinions of people who passed all three filters.

Interestingly, a person can be brilliant and well-informed but gullible at the same time because the brain uses different zones for different functions. I'd like to know who my brilliant-but-gullible fellow citizens are because those folks are a menace to society. The brilliant part makes them highly capable while the gullible part makes them dangerous. The ones who don't become serial killers are voting. In terms of body count, which is worse?

 
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Aug 30, 2012
I think a good way to test for gullibility is to tell the subject that you can screen for gullibility and see if they believe it.

That aside, gulibility would be loosely defined as an inability to parse information for the detection of deception, or as an uncertainty of formerly conceived concepts in light of contradictory new information.

If a shyster shows you 4 balls, lets you count them, and then covers them up and tells you that there were actually 5 balls, you have to decide on how sure you are that there are 4 balls. If you have a bad memory, or are unsure in your ability to count, then you may beleive that other person.

Being gullible, therefore, is no more than being uncertain in your own concepts. Thus being gullible is only bad if what you know is actually true. A person immune to gullibility will stubornly stick to a wrong idea even if confronted with overwhelming evidence and testimony.

So Scott has it wrong, it is not the gullible that are dangerous, it is the dogmatic.
 
 
Aug 30, 2012
Is that the same part that believes in god(s) or an afterlife ? Or alien seeding ?
 
 
+6 Rank Up Rank Down
Aug 30, 2012
Scott,

Your standard disclaimer is needed. That last paragraph is brilliant and people with a weak ventromedial area of the prefrontal cortex will start saying that you are saying gullible people shouldn't be allowed to vote...
 
 
+1 Rank Up Rank Down
Aug 30, 2012
Oh, well virtually the whole of academia is chock-a-block with these people.
 
 
+2 Rank Up Rank Down
Aug 30, 2012
>>Even better, the first filter would test for knowledge on a topic, a second filter would test for general intelligence, and a third would test for gullibility. I'd only care about the opinions of people who passed all three filters.

And you would trust these filters, would you?

Assuming they are accurate, consider this: Sometimes the stories we tell ourselves contain complex truths we have difficulty embracing in other ways. For example: cold, rational self-interest might lead to decisions that faith rejects. Faith generally emphasizes the good of the whole over individual good. There are variations and millions of corruptions -but faith survives as a powerful force, in part because it has provided survival advantages to groups. People of faith are often happier than those without faith - because (I believe) they have been taught to get outside their own heads and consider the needs of other people ahead of their own. That is not natural - but it can offer many long-term personal and social benefits.

In other words, don't dis the story tellers and their audiences. There is too much truth for a single mind to grasp. We are a communal species. We learn together, or not at all.
 
 
+11 Rank Up Rank Down
Aug 30, 2012
>>How long will it be before pollsters can show their results filtered by gullibility?

Pollsters? How about Publisher's Clearing House and all the charity solicitations that guarantee the recipient has won $12,880? The bas***ds are systematically identifying and stripping aging adults of hard-earned assets. If ever there were a place for intrusive government regulation - this is it!

My m-i-l was financially prudent all her life. She worked as a budget analyst. Now, at any given time, she's convinced she has won tens of thousands of dollars. All she needs to do is keep sending in donations and soon the money will come raining down. She is generally capable of taking care of herself - except where it comes to recognizing and protecting herself from scams. This is going to push her into dependency years before she would otherwise need to give up control over her own life. I watched the same thing happen with a neighbor several years ago.

Publisher's Clearing House blocked her account - but plenty of other vultures are lining up to get a piece of the action. I block one and 10 new ones pop up out of nowhere.

Marketers figured this out years ago...
 
 
Aug 30, 2012
You've begged a question: are religious people more gullible or not than non-religious people. There's a study worth having. You'd need to do it both on brain area and in real world results.



You've also tried to apply a quantifiable measuring system to non-quantifiable things (souls), which is outside science's field of expertise. Sounds like a form of gullibility to me. See the wikipedia page below. Scientific tools ultimately lack necessary expertise on things they are unable to measure.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Argument_from_authority
 
 
-3 Rank Up Rank Down
Aug 30, 2012
I've always thought that brilliance and gullibility was more like an aspergers trait...not a menace to society.
 
 
+1 Rank Up Rank Down
Aug 30, 2012
Pitting magical conceptions against each other is one of our favorite pastimes. What am I going to write my book about now? How following magical conceptions can lead to ruin. Getting young moist robots to read it, might be tricky.
 
 
Aug 30, 2012
Yet another wonderful idea you have, Scott, that will go nowhere. In this case it'll die for the same reason they're killing the use of credit scores and background checks in hiring; too many folks are on the losing end of this equation and don't like it one bit! (You didn't think charges of racism was the real reason did you?)

Also, just in case you missed my comment on the matter the last time I will inform you once more: Staceys Cafe is still listing you as a co-owner. http://www.eatatstaceys.com/staceys-cafe/about-us.php
 
 
+7 Rank Up Rank Down
Aug 30, 2012
So you're saying that Dianetics (http://www.dianetics.org/) isn't right?

The scientists who were looking for something pre-determined found exactly what they were looking for and continued to receive their grant money. Shocking!
 
 
+6 Rank Up Rank Down
Aug 30, 2012
I totally believe that you can test for gullibility!
 
 
Aug 30, 2012
It's easy to tell the gullible...
Nobody who buys lottery tickets should be allowed to vote.
 
 
Aug 30, 2012
We already have a gullibility test in place, just look at the 2008 election results. (Sit back and let the hate begin...)
 
 
+31 Rank Up Rank Down
Aug 30, 2012
You believed that prefrontal cortex story?

One born every minute...
 
 
+10 Rank Up Rank Down
Aug 30, 2012
I've observed the same thing. I had chalked it up to confirmation bias rather than simple gullibility, but maybe this is a better explanation. I have a father-in-law who used to be an engineer with the military. A brilliant guy by any intelligence test you might care to use. But he now believes, and shares, every single anti-Obama story he hears, no questions asked, no sources checked. The absolute worst incident came a few months ago when he shared a satirical story about Obama supposedly being foreclosed upon. The story itself, in my opinion, was hilarious. Except that my father in law didn't get the joke, and shared it with his Facebook page as further evidence of just how dumb and irresponsible Obama is. It's gotten to the point where I'm genuinely embarrassed by a man I used to have nothing but respect for.

I don't suppose they're working on a way to fix the ventromedial area of the prefrontal cortex?
 
 
+4 Rank Up Rank Down
Aug 30, 2012
What about stupid people who are not gullible- what would they look like?
 
 
 
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