Why do people BS, and what can make them stop doing it? A new study suggests the bull tends to flow when people feel social pressure to have an opinion on something—even if they don't fully understand the subject, per Poynter. And it's worse if people don't think they'll be held accountable for it. In his study published in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, John Petrocelli first explains what bulls--- is: "communicating with little to no regard for evidence, established knowledge, or truth." And, per the Smithsonian, he makes sure to differentiate bulls--- from lying, as liars actually know what the truth is and try to hide or circumvent it, while BSers don't care whether what they're saying is true or not—they just feel compelled to air their opinions. Petrocelli conducted two separate experiments to suss things out.
In one, involving a questionnaire filled out by nearly 600 people, he told one group they weren't required to relay their thoughts on certain topics, while the other had no such disclaimer—and those who felt pressured to share their opinions tended to BS more. In the second experiment, he asked about 230 undergrad students to provide four separate opinions. For only one of the opinions were students told they could speak freely, with no judgment; for the other three, the subjects were told their comments were being recorded and evaluated by an expert. For the opinion in which the subjects felt they weren't going to be held accountable, they spewed more bull than they did for the other three. In other words, although Petrocelli says it's not a cure-all, "simply calling people out on their bull---- will usually put a stop to it," Smithsonian notes. (What kind of people believe BS?)