Here you will find some information about my research projects, along with data and research materials from my studies. Feel free to use these resources as long as you cite the relevant articles. I will also post some pedagogical materials here soon.Core beliefs Moral intuitions Bullshit receptivity
Are human beings basically good or selfish? Are there higher powers in the universe? What sources of knowledge can be trusted? To what extent are people free to shape their own lives? To what extent is the world a just place where you get what you deserve?
All persons make basic, often unarticulated and unconscious, assumptions about reality. These assumptions have great impact on our lives, including major life choices, the pursuit of meaning, well-being, coping with adversity, and conflict with others who do not share our worldviews. But they have for a long time been largely neglected in psychological research. I am, together with Martin Bäckström at Lund University, currently trying to develop an integrative model that covers all the different varieties of core beliefs. We have identified 36 different preliminary categories of belief and constructed a questionnarie to measure them. We are currently analyzing data.
Moral Foundations Theory (see the Wikipedia page and the official webpage) is one of the leading theories in moral psychology today. According to this theory, the clashes between different ideological, religious, and cultural groups can, to a great extent, be explained in terms of conflicting, deeply emotion-laden intuitions about what is morally right and wrong. The theory proposes a number of universal foundations that these intuitions rest upon:
I have found this theoretical framework useful, although the taxonomy is by no means the final word. I have, together with colleagues, applied the theory to several different topics (feel free to e-mail me for the papers that are not yet published):
The philosopher Harry Frankfurt famously defined bullshit as a claim produced absent concern for the truth; that is, rather than lying or being deluded, the bullshitter simply does not care about whether s/he is speaking the truth or not. Pseudo-profound bullshit in turn consists of sentences designed to sound intellectually profound. They are constructed by stringing together impressive-sounding buzzwords into a random but syntactically correct sequence. This type of bullshit is not uncommon in the New Age movement and in some quarters of continental and postmodern philosophy.
|Generate a random pseudo-profound Deepak Chopra quotation:|
|The Wisdom of Chopra|
|Generate a random pseudo-profound post-modern essay:||The postmodernism generator|
Pennycook et al. (2015) showed that receptivity to pseudo-profound bullshit is a meaningful aspect of the individual’s information processing capabilities and were awarded the Ig-Nobel prize for this research. My colleagues and I have constructed a Swedish version of the bullshit receptivity scale. We have investigated the link between bullshit receptivity and political orientation (Nilsson, Erlandsson, & Västfjäll, 2019), as well as prosociality (Erlandsson, Nilsson, Tinghög, & Västfjäll, 2018).
"Is man the measure, an end in himself, an active, creative, thinking, desiring, loving force in nature? Or must man realize himself, attain his full stature only through struggle toward, participation in, conformity to a norm, a measure, an ideal essence basically prior to and independent of man?" (Tomkins, 1963)
My early research on worldviews focused primarily on the constructs humanism and normativism, from Silvan Tomkins' Polarity Theory. These worldviews include the following assumptions and values:
|Human nature||Attitude to others||Feelings||Society||Knowledge|
|Humanism||Intrinsically good and valuable||Unconditional love and acceptance||Openness to feelings and impulses||People's rights and well-being||Imagination, creativity, subjectivity|
|Normativism||Neutral or evil; value from accomplishment||Discipline; love and respect is earned||Control of feelings and impulses||Law and order||Obejctivity, rigor, facts|
I have developed a new instrument and model for these constructs, and I have looked at their relation to philosophical ideas, values, and moral convictions (see publications). I have also looked at their relation to political ideology (here).