John Petrocelli

Professor of Psychology at Wake Forest University

• Author of 'The Life-Changing Science of Detecting Bullshit'

John Petrocelli

Dr. John V. Petrocelli is an experimental social psychologist who researches, writes, and speaks about the science of communication and decision making. He is a Professor of Psychology at Wake Forest University, teaching social psychology and judgment and decision making. He is also the author of The Life-Changing Science of Detecting Bullshit. His research examines the causes and consequences of bullshit and bullshitting in the way of better understanding and improving bullshit detection and disposal. Dr. Petrocelli’s research contributions also include attitudes and persuasion and the intersections of counterfactual thinking with learning, memory and decision making. His research and writings have been featured by the Wall Street Journal and in his popular TEDx Talk, Why BS is More Dangerous Than a Lie. Dr. Petrocelli has delivered keynotes for Financial Executives Networking Group of Charlotte, NC, Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business, and more.

In addition to his research and position as an Associate Editor of the Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, he has authored over 50 papers in his field’s most prestigious journals, including the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, British Journal of Social Psychology, and Thinking and Reasoning. He has received numerous awards for his teaching and research achievements.

Dr. Petrocelli is a member of the American Psychological Association, the Association for Psychological Science. He was also elected to the highly selective Society for Experimental Social Psychology, and he is a fellow of the Society for Personality and Social Psychology. He gives frequent invited addresses and speaks regularly at national conferences, and is available for speaking and consulting engagements, primarily in business, communication, leadership, and management. He received his Ph.D. in social psychology from Indiana University, working with Steven Sherman (editor of Journal of Personality and Social Psychology).

Speech topics


From every angle, whether it be from colleagues, meetings, or the marketplace of business ideas, business leaders constantly encounter bullshit that plagues their judgments, beliefs, and decisions. Short of lying, the sources of bullshit pay no attention to truth, evidence, or established knowledge, and use a broad array of rhetorical strategies to sound like they know what they are talking about when their obligations to provide an opinion far exceed their actual knowledge. How informed can beliefs about anything—and decisions based on those beliefs—be if they are based on bullshit-reasoning and communication? How can bullshit in the workplace be better detected and disposed? This session directly addresses commonly encountered bullshit in the workplace and its unwanted effects in the ways of better detection, better disposal, and better decisions.


What is bullshit and why is there so much of it? What effects does bullshit have on workplace communication and how can its unwanted effects be replaced by the many benefits of evidence-based communication? Apart from choosing to be smarter, there are critical benefits that, Dr. John Petrocelli suggests, our current way of thinking and communicating in the workplace often ignores. It’s time to stop the bullshit with better detection and better disposal of this insidious communicative substance.

Based on Dr. Petrocelli’s latest TEDx Talk, Why BS is More Dangerous Than a Lie, his own empirical research, and his new book, The Life-Changing Science of Detecting Bullshit, Dr. Petrocelli presents an eye-opening, groundbreaking, and evidenced-based tour of the causes, dysfunctions, and costs of bullshit, showing how it operates in our communicative culture and how you can make significantly better decisions in the workplace.

We’ve long assumed that bullshitting is a harmless social activity. Perhaps this is why it is such a common social activity. In fact, research shows there are over three dozen situations and reasons people bullshit in the workplace. However, social psychological research suggests we couldn’t be more wrong. Bullshit communications, at the expense of evidence-based communication, have devastating effects on beliefs about what is true, memory, attitudes and opinions, as well as judgment and decision making. Dr. Petrocelli explores causes of bullshitting, how to best detect bullshit in the workplace, how to properly dispose of it, and how best to replace bullshit reasoning and communication with its antithesis—evidence-based reasoning and communication.


Buy-ins on ideas and best practices does not occur on their own. Without buy-in from the team, any leader is just another tuned-out voice. That is why the single greatest ability that a leader can develop in the ways of selling a product, motivating a team, or growing a company is their ability to communicate persuasively.

Dr. John Petrocelli is an experimental social psychologist and an expert on attitudes and persuasion. In this talk based on his empirical research, Dr. Petrocelli takes the audience on a journey to understanding principles of influence and the best alpha and omega strategies of social influence proven to reduce resistance and improve persuasion.

In order for things to emerge as best practices within an organization you have to know the behavioral science in order to hone your messages properly and understand how these factors have the greatest impact, leading to the greatest persuasive success. Coming from someone who actually conducts empirical research on the topics of persuasion and influence, he’ll share simple strategies, based on scientific research and proven effective for how to maximize influence and inoculate the established influence from unwanted influences in the way of establishing and promoting best practices.


Dr. John Petrocelli is an experimental social psychologist and an expert in judgment and decision making and one of the world’s foremost experts on evidence-based communication. He is a firm believer in the well-established belief that better information does not always lead to better judgment and decision making, but that better judgment and decision making almost always requires better information.

Clearly, reaching successful outcomes in organizations will require halting some common ways of making decisions that are so widely accepted and recommended that they are rarely questioned, yet deeply flawed, such as casual benchmarking other organizations, false analogies that pass for best practices, and dogmatism of deeply endorsed, but unexamined ideologies.

Yet, there is good news for leaders and their organizations, because every day there are opportunities to use better information to gain advantages over their competition. Doing so simply entails using evidence-based management. The foundations of evidence-based management are the scientifically-supported assertions that recognizing much of the conventional wisdom about management is built on dangerous half-truths, using better logic, employing facts to the extent possible, facing the hard facts about what works and what doesn’t, and rejecting total nonsense that too often passes for sound advice, all empower leaders and organizations to perform better.

As Dr. Petrocelli will show you, the practice of evidence-based management is neither mysterious nor extraordinarily difficult to implement. More importantly, evidence-based management produces superior results. Even better, evidence-based management can generate sustained competitive advantages because so few organizations and their leaders do it—let alone do it well—that the probability of imitation will not be high.


The Life-Changing Science of Detecting Bullshit

Expanding upon his viral TEDx Talk, psychology professor and social scientist John V. Petrocelli's The Life-Changing Science of Detecting Bullshit reveals the critical thinking habits you can develop to recognize and combat pervasive false information and delusional thinking that has become a common feature of everyday life.

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